Under the scheme, customers could choose not to show up for flights between March 1, 2020 and April 15, 2020 and yet, redeem the same PNR later
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The aviation industry scenario has been badly hit due to the coronavirus outbreak. Flights have been cancelled last minute, refunds have been delayed for days, and government regulations have added to the mix. A few days ago, the External Affairs Minister mentioned in the Lok Sabha that all passengers travelling from international destinations will be quarantined for 14 days. For the same, passengers are being screened upon arrival at the airports.
On March 16, 2020, passengers from two AirIndia flights—from Paris and Frankfurt—landed in Delhi at approximately 9 am in the morning. The passengers were screened and taken to a quarantine area in Narela. However, this process went on for over 24 hours!
24-year-old Meghna was on the flight from Paris. She says that their passports were taken away upon arrival. They were given no information of any further procedure. Travellers on both flights were then called upon one by one for a medical examination. She wrote: “I don't know for how long, they didn't have any mics. So we were all huddled together and they had to use their voice and we had to use our hearing capacity. It was impossible for you to move, move away from the crowd because that's where all the names are being called out”. She also added that some people were showing symptoms, and those without any were huddled with them in a small space for nearly 10 hours.
When Meghna reached the first checkpoint, they did not examine her temperature, even though others were checked for theirs, she says. She adds that everyone cooperated in the beginning. However around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, they got impatient as there no food or water had been provided. Heer Shah, another passenger mentions that only a bottle of water was given in the morning and a sandwich in the evening; alongwith two juice boxes. They were also not allowed to enter the duty free store—the only store in the vicinity. Immigration procedures followed as the the crowd grew angsty.
In the evening, they were taken to the parking lot and boarded buses to a quarantine area. However, Shah mentions that 30-40 people were left behind as they missed their turn waiting for their luggage. The person on the other side, equally helpless, seemed to be unaware of any particular protocol to follow. An argument with the airport authority led to them getting their passports back. Then they were let out of the airport. The rest were taken to DDA flats-turned-isolation rooms in Narela around 9:30 pm, two people to one flat.
“The washroom was unusable. I can tell you that I personally didn't use the restroom for the 14 hours I was there. 42 miles… They served poori bhaji. The next morning, we got the chance to look at how the food is being prepared. I really wish I didn't see it. There were no gloves. There were no masks. The food was, I mean, the vegetables were lying on the ground. Everything was open. They set up this tent on an open ground and everything was just kept on it”, she said.
24-year-old Krishna was also travelling from Paris, and had a connecting flight to Kochi. However, under the circumstances, all flights were suspended. “We spoke to the airlines. So first, they asked us to pay the fare difference for the next flight. I said I won't pay even a single penny. We had an argument, then they agreed”.
The next day, people were asked to sign an undertaking regarding self isolation. "From there, people took various modes of transport. Cabs, buses, metros, flights, because there was no other way. Everybody had to go back home... what I'm saying is that after being exposed to a higher risk of being infected, yeah, we were sent back to take public transport again!"
Heer Shah mentions that her friend who has arrived from abroad has been visited by the authorities to ensure precautions are being taken. Shah so far has not been contacted.
However, this is not the case at all airports. Srishti Matthew, a Syracuse University student (travelling international), and Prakriti Arya, an employee at The Quint (travelling domestic) confirmed that they were provided a form to reveal symptoms, went through thermal screening, and the former signed an undertaking for home quarantine for 14 days at Chennai and Mumbai airports. The screening process took just 30 minutes.
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