All domestic passenger flights will stop landing at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International (NSCBI) airport in Kolkata from tomorrow midnight, as per a directive by the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation. The Kolkata airport officials are also taking isolation measures, as per a directive issued today by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Amidst much tension due to coronavirus outbreak, chief minister Mamata Banerjee today wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting suspension of all flight operations. She reasoned that without suspension of all flight services at the Kolkata airport, the state- governmment-imposed city lockdown, is futile.

In a letter to Mr Modi, Miss Banerjee expressed her concern over the operation of domestic flights and said it is causing a breach of shutdown. The operation of international flights has already been shut.

“We are seriously concerned as the Government of India is still allowing operation of flights causing a huge breach of shutdown and quarantine protocol with no arrangements of social distancing that we are so painfully managing in the state. I would therefore request you to kindly arrange to issue necessary instructions to stop all flights coming to West Bengal with immediate effect so that the source of spreading infection is effectively contained and lockdown in the state is implemented in true letter and spirit,” read Miss Banerjee’s letter to Mr Modi.

The civil aviation ministry has today announced that all domestic scheduled passenger airlines have to cease operations at Indian airports from the mid-night of 24 March, from 11:59 p.m. However, the restrictions shall not apply to solely cargo carrying flights. The suspension of international flights was already in place from 22 March.

All domestic flights bound for state airports would now have to schedule their flights accordingly, ensuring that it lands before 11:59 pm. A Kolkata airport spokesperson today informed that the total number of domestic departures from NSCBI airport, yesterday, on 22 March, was 7215.

It may be noted that the Kolkata airport officials had earlier informed that the airport will be functioning as usual since domestic flights were still plying.

However, the number of domestic flights kept going down as airlines such as Indigo and GoAir cancelled close to 1000 domestic flights on Sunday. It is further learnt that the DGCA has sent circulars to all airports including Kolkata, concerning social distancing measures that are to be followed by airlines and airport operators.

It is learnt from a Kolkata airport official that airport authorities have been asked to ensure adequate check-in counters and security check counters to avoid congestion of passengers while sanitisers need to be provided at all prominent locations.