At IGI airport, tales of homecoming after months

At IGI airport, tales of homecoming after months
Passengers at IGI Airport, Monday. Domestic flights are operating from Terminal 3. (Tashi Tobgyal)

After a gap of two months, domestic passenger operations resumed in a limited way at Delhi Airport, with over 125 departures and 118 arrivals through the course of a day.

Terminal 3 of the airport looked very different from the always bustling transit space which had been closed in March, with the plan to make a third of pre-lockdown flights operational.

While all passengers were wearing masks and gloves, many had face screens while some were even wearing full PPE suits. A new addition to the departure gates were several small stands selling hand sanitisers for Rs 52, masks for Rs 12 and Rs 14, gloves for Rs 35 and PPE suits for Rs 640 and Rs 830.

With the first day of domestic operations coinciding with Eid-ul-Fitr, passengers included those who were happy at the thought of being reunited with their families before the end of the day.

“There are concerns about flying but my wife needs to join her new job at our hometown soon and I got the opportunity to be with my parents on the evening of Eid,” said Mohammad Faisal, a doctor who works in Delhi, waiting for a flight to Varanasi.

Alex (29) had lost his job as an IT in-charge in an education institute during lockdown. He said he is now looking to shift base to Bengaluru in the hope of seizing any early job opportunities.

“There are a lot of people like me who lost work during the lockdown and are hunting. I wanted to take the first flight to Bengaluru, where my brother lives, and start an early lookout for jobs because companies will have to start openings sometime again and I want to be among the first to grab them,” he said. He had come to the airport from his hometown, Bareilly, after having paid Rs 7,000 for a cab.

Vikrant Rahi, a DSP with Chhattisgarh police, had made an ever longer journey to the airport. He had flown in on a morning flight from Raipur to take his wife and one-year-old daughter back to Chhattisgarh on an evening flight.

“My wife teaches in a school in Delhi. I’ve come to pick them up because she said that she needs help with our daughter. It is a bit stressful to travel with a child amid the coronavirus fears but I don’t see the situation getting better anytime soon, and both of them will be safer there than here,” he said.

For many at the arrivals, Delhi was not the final destination. In fact, a large part of those who landed hailed from Uttar Pradesh, and they made up the bulk of passengers waiting in queues at private cab booths.

Several passengers tried looking for cabs on Ola and Uber apps but complained of lack of availability. Private cabs including Meru, Moga and a prepaid taxi stand were the only available options for those looking to make their way out of the airport. A cab towards Agra, for instance, cost anywhere between Rs 5,000-8,000 — with only two passengers allowed at a time.

The price was too steep for some.

Twenty-year-old Munish Khan stood outside the arrival gate with two bags of luggage. Stranded in Chennai since the lockdown, he is heading to Rampur in UP.

“I work in a private company and have been trying to come home since March. The first month, I survived on my savings, but soon money began to run out. I booked this plane ticket two days ago and now I have to look for a bus since there is not enough money for a private cab. I am relieved that I have made it so far; I hope to be home soon,” he said.