Kerala

Coronavirus lockdown | Kerala airports bear the burden well

Air Malta flight docking at the Cochin International Airport.

Air Malta flight docking at the Cochin International Airport.  

Facilities upgraded and aircraft, terminals sanitised

Despite reduced airline operations and the pandemic-induced strict norms for passengers, baggage, and aircraft cleaning, the four international airports in the State could successfully host repatriation flights.

Though the number of flights had come down due to the nationwide lockdown since March 24, work has doubled for the stakeholders in Thiruvananthapuram, Cochin, Kozhikode, and Kannur airports due to mandatory protocols and time-consuming screening procedures.

Expense is on the higher side as aircraft interiors have to be sanitised at every stop. Surfaces frequently touched at airport check-in counters and luggage too have to be sanitised. Physical-distancing norms are a challenge, especially for groundhandling agencies.

Initially, flights ferried in Non-Resident Keralites from abroad, till domestic services resumed in a calibrated manner on May 25. Though Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel and crew of the Air India Express (AIE) tested positive for the virus, the services offered at the airport did not suffer.

Among the four, the Cochin airport has been the hub of the repatriation flights operated by Air India, Air India Express, chartered flights from West Asia and the private airlines in which 1.09 lakh persons have so far arrived in the State.

322 flights

The Cochin airport handled 322 flights during the three phases of the Vande Bharat Mission evacuating 55,293 passengers till June 30. Besides the repatriation flight operations by Air India Express, Qatar Airways, Kuwait Airways, Emirates, Etihad, Gulf Air, Jazeera, Saudia, Fly Dubai from GCC countries, there have been special Air India flights from San Fransisco and Chicago in the U.S., Paris, London, Armenia, Moscow, Cebu in Philippines, Ho Chi Minh City, and Djibouti in Africa, sources said.

British Airways and Swiss Air transported their citizens from Kochi and Qatar Airways and Saudia operated special flights for transporting 1,500 medical professionals from Kerala.

The Cochin airport also received flights of Air Peace from Nigeria, Air Malta from the Republic of Malta, Somon Air from Tajikistan, DAT Air from Denmark, Air Astana from Tajikistan, Iraq Airways from Iraq, Salam Air from Oman, Maldivian from Male, Ethiopian from Ethiopia, Onur Air from Moldova, and Azur Air from Ukraine.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2020 1:35:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/airports-bear-the-burden-well/article31974252.ece

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