Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Four-month high: Kolkata flight count hits a century

Kolkata: Flight count at Kolkata airport hit a century on Sunday, exactly 102 days after operations resumed post lockdown. A day later, however, not a single flight took off as the state went into a total lockdown for a day. Though it is still way short of the 240-score it regularly clocked before the pandemic sent the aviation industry into a tailspin, it has been a rollercoaster ride to 100 with several air pockets along the way.
Flights in Kolkata had resumed on May 28, three days after it did in rest of the country. Battered by cyclone Amphan, Kolkata was still limping back to normal when the first set of flights took off. On the first day, only 11 flights departed. After restrictions were lifted from June 1, the flight count increased to 45 and continued to rise till it reached 60-61 by mid-month.
Flights continued to cruise at that level till June-end when the state's request to the Centre to stop flights from highly infected Covid states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat led to the flight count going up to 72 on July 5 as fliers scrambled to travel a day before the ban set in. On July 6, the flight count plunged to 41.

Flights at the airport hit another turbulence when the state announced the twice-a-week complete lockdowns from July-end. Though 43 flights operated on the first lockdown day on June 23, there have been no flights on lockdown days since then, just like September 7 when no flights landed or took off from Kolkata just a day after it touched 100.

What led to the recent rally and the century home-run is resumption of flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad and Nagpur three times a week. Though there was no ban on flights from Kolkata to these cities, most airlines did not operate one-way flights as they were difficult to schedule and also unviable. IndiGo did start one-way flights to Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai a day after Independence Day. But the real impetus came on September 1 when the embargo was lifted after nearly two months. Suddenly, the flight count shot up to 93. The next day though, it plunged to 69 (courtesy the ban on flights from the six cities four days a week, including September 2) again before hitting a high of 94 the next day.
08/09/20 Tamaghna Banerjee/Times of India
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