India’s Maharashtra to Start Domestic Flights With Fewer Planes

India’s Maharashtra, home to the nation’s financial hub Mumbai, will resume commercial flights on Monday with reduced domestic services as the state struggles to contain coronavirus infection cases.

The state will allow 50 flights per day, from the earlier 200 flight movements, Mumbai airport said in a statement, joining airports in cities including Chennai and Hyderabad in pruning air-travel services.

A day before the start of domestic flights across the country, several meetings were held at the civil aviation ministry as states expressed their reluctance to deal with incoming flyers amid the coronavirus pandemic. Local air travel will begin today in all states except West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, which will re-open later this week, Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri said in a tweet.

READ: Airlines Caught Off Guard as India Suddenly Allows Flights

India’s decision to resume domestic flights from May 25 surprised most of the country’s aviation companies. While airlines were waiting for a decision, the short notice makes it harder for them to prepare for operations, deploy staff, arrange for protective gear, and ensure the virus stays away from flights, top executives at three airlines said May 21, asking not to be identified because of rules on speaking to the media.

The contagion is escalating in the South Asian nation of 1.3 billion people, with more than 138,000 infections and over 4,000 fatalities, according to data from John Hopkins University as of Monday morning.

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