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Flight cancellations left passengers disappointed and furious.
Flight cancellations left passengers disappointed and furious.

Murphy's Law strikes air travellers

  • There were scenes of chaos at Indian airports. Uncertainty under lockdown was bad enough, but with people's flying plans up in the air, there seems no respite.

Everything that can go wrong, will. That's Murphy's Law. But in India, the application of any law is often variable. So too, with Murphy's. So while "everything" that could go wrong did not, a lot did on the first day that the country opened up its skies for domestic air travel. It has been a manic Monday so far for air travellers, many of whom had been stuck in places far away from their hometowns and had keenly been waiting for a chance to return. Dozens of flights got cancelled without passengers being alerted before they left for airports, reportedly, with the result that they reached their departure terminals only to find they would not get to travel. Many took to social media to air grievances against airlines for allegedly failing to keep them in the loop of what was going on. There was a lot of anguish expressed at quarantine norms specified by a few states. Bangalore arrivals, as many suddenly discovered, would be hauled off for a week's isolation at a government facility, to be followed by a week's lock-in at home. Forms were said to have been issued asking for travellers' details for this, but the plan seemed to have left out onward flight takers. Transit passengers with only a layover in the city were reported to be bewildered by what address information to give and confused by whether they too would be quarantined for a week.

In all, it has been a picture of chaos. If airline officials seemed lost for answers, perhaps it is not entirely the fault of air carrier managements, though it is to an extent. The basic rules for flying were issued by the Central government only late last week, after two months of no flying. This may still have been adequate preparation time, had it not been for the sudden notifications issued by various state governments over the weekend, tightening norms on their own accord. Maharashtra first decided to keep Mumbai airport closed, and then relented a bit, offering to let 25 flights land and the same number take off--all of this, within a span of hours. Karnataka's quarantine order, meanwhile, deterred vast numbers in need of flying to Bangalore. Plans had to be dropped at the last minute. No wonder Indian flyers are fuming at their ears.

What led to dozens of flights being dropped at the nth hour remains unclear at this moment. What we do know is that India's resumption of flights has exceeded the worst expectations of cynics in its pandemonium. Airline managements and the authorities, at every level of authority, must get a grip of this quickly.

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