UK Flights Resume, Chaos As Delhi Says Institutional Quarantine Must

Survey AAI - UK Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi - Aviatorsbuzz
A file photo of Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. Source: Twitter

As the UK flights resumed, chaotic scenes were witnessed at the Delhi airport on Friday as passengers landing in from London, complained against the government’s ‘sudden’ decision to make seven-day institutional quarantine compulsory for them irrespective of their COVID-19 test results.

One UK Flight on Friday, More to Follow

Passenger flights resumed from the UK to India in a restricted manner with limited numbers from Friday after being suspended for 16 days due to the emergence of a new coronavirus variant in that country, traces of which have since been found in India too.

Air India’s AI112 flight from London landed at the Delhi airport at around 10.30 a.m.

It was the only UK flight to land in Delhi on Friday and it had 256 passengers in it, said Gauri Agarwal, founder of the Genestrings Diagnostic Centre, which is handling coronavirus testing of all passengers at the Delhi airport.

“This is ridiculous. You cannot tell people the rules have changed after they land. Some notice must be given! Chaos at Delhi Airport with this flight, families with small children, pregnant woman howling,” Vistara’s former Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer Sanjiv Kapoor said on Twitter.

Passengers said they were still at the airport more than 10 hours after landing, with total chaos prevailing there. One passenger Tweeted the photograph of his 4.5 month old daughter asking the Delhi government to have mercy.   

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Friday afternoon that travellers coming from the UK to the national capital will have to undergo a seven-day institutional quarantine and a seven-day institutional quarantine and a seven-day home quarantine even if they test negative for COVID-19 on arrival.

UK India - qurantine Domestic air travel - Mumbai Airport - aviatorsbuzz
Representational photograph of passengers registering their details for the RT-PCR test.

Air India, however, claimed on Twitter on Friday evening that it had informed the flight’s passengers about the new advisory of the Delhi government before the plane took off from the Heathrow airport last night.

“Around 20 passengers opted to cancel their flight on being informed by Air India’s London team of this advisory. The announcement was repeated during the flight as well,” the carrier added.

Harpreet Takkar, a passenger of the Air India flight, Tweeted tagging Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri and said: “Just came from London AI112, it’s absolutely maniac at Delhi Airport. Asking us to go for institutional quarantine even with a Negative PCR test. Didn’t mention this on your SOP (standard operating procedure).”

Officials said there were heated arguments between the passengers and security personnel who were present at the airport. Air India said it had mobilised all available resources to expedite RT-PCR tests for passengers of the flight and extended “every possible support to facilitate them”.

Gauri Agarwal informed that one Vistara flight with 291 passengers will arrive from London to Delhi on Saturday and two flights — one a British Airways and another of Air India with a total of 481 passengers will land at the Delhi airport on Sunday.

The modified rules by way of the Delhi government circular also impacted connecting passengers as well as they were not being allowed to take connections and instead had to undergo mandatory institutional quarantine in Delhi for 7 days.

On Wednesday (January 6), the first Air India flight for the UK left Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport with 252 passengers. Another flight from Mumbai left for London on Wednesday evening.

Around 491 passengers have flown out of the country in these two flights. Both the Air India flights are likely to return today to their base in Delhi and in Mumbai, and these will be the first flights coming to India from the UK since midnight of December 23, 2020. On January 8, one Air India flight will fly from Mumbai to London Heathrow and another return flight has also been announced.

The Centre has laid down strict procedures that the incoming passengers are needed to follow upon their arrival. In a set of standard operating procedures (SOP), the health ministry said all the incoming passengers from the UK will require declaring their travel history of the past 14 days.

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