30k drop in passengers at KIA amid COVID-19 fears

30k drop in passengers at KIA; 180 flights cancelled from Chennai amidst COVID-19 fears

Inside KIA without the usual crowds

The daily passenger numbers at Kempegoweda International Airport (KIA) have dropped by a whopping 30,000 to hover around 70,000 as several international airlines cancelled or reduced their flights to Bengaluru due to Covid-19 outbreak.

In Chennai, cancellation of nearly 180 flights over the last week has had the same impact. Lack of patronage, strict travel restrictions in several countries and quarantine rules for all foreign arrivals have led to the cancellations. This could get worse in the coming weeks, say airport sources.

KIA sources told DH that airlines such as Cathay Pacific Dragon to Hong Kong, Thai Airways to Bangkok and Lufthansa to Frankfurt have reduced their frequencies to thrice a week. Singapore Airlines and Air France have also brought down their flight numbers.

Depleting passenger numbers have also forced flight cancellations/reductions by Malaysian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Oman Air, Air France, Gulf Air and Saudia. With IndiGo and GoAir too taking off flights from their international calendar, passenger traffic to and from almost all regions is showing a decline, the sources said.

In the wake of the crisis, Japan Airlines has put off its Bengaluru-Tokyo flight launch from March 30 to July 1. Lufthansa too has postponed the launch of its Bengaluru-Munich flight to April 25.

While terminal crowds, a standard feature at KIA, the country’s third busiest airport, have virtually vanished, the trend is similar at the Chennai airport. Booking counters here are deserted. More cancellations are expected from Chennai as well.

“Most of the traffic from Chennai is to the Gulf and countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore. Several Europe-bound passengers transit via the Gulf. Since both the Gulf region and Europe are hard hit by Covid-19, the flights are getting cancelled leading to heavy losses for both airlines and the airport,” a senior airport official explains.

The number of cancellations at Chennai that were hovering around 28 rose to 38 on Tuesday with 30 international and 8 domestic flights being cancelled. The number of flights cancelled on Monday was 26, March 15 (28), March 14 (28), March 13 (14), March 12 (16) and March 11 (14). As a precautionary measure, passengers are screened using thermal scanners. While 14 people were sent for tests on Monday, the number rose to 22 on Tuesday.

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