NEW DELHI: Schedule domestic passenger flights will stop operating from 11.59 pm on Tuesday till March 31 midnight. The decision comes as lockdowns to prevent spread of coronavirus across states has made it tough for everyone — passengers, crew and people working at airports — to commute between the city and airport.

India has already stopped schedule international flights for a week, as of now, from March 22. From Tuesday-Wednesday midnight no passenger flight is allowed in India. Only cargo and evacuation flights cleared on case-to-case basis will be allowed in the commercial space.

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“The operations of domestic schedule commercial airlines shall cease operations with effect from the midnight, that is 11.59 pm (India time), on March 24. Airlines have to plan operations so as to land at their destination before 23:59 hours on March 24. The restrictions shall not apply to solely cargo carrying flights,” the aviation ministry said.

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The lockdowns in several cities is making it difficult for both passengers, crew and staffers of airlines, airports, health and other departments to commute between airports and their homes/hotels.

On Sunday, the Delhi government’s lockdown order had sought stopping of all domestic and international flights and had asked Airports Authority of India (AAI) chairman to ensure strict compliance of the same. But the Centre maintained that aviation is an essential service and Delhi airport will remain operational for domestic flights.

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On Tuesday, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee requested Prime Minister Modi to “stop all flights coming to West Bengal with immediate effect.” She wrote: “…we are seriously concerned that government of India is still allowing operation of flights causing a huge breach of shutdown… I would therefore, request you to kindly arrange to issue necessary instructions to stop all flights coming to West Bengal with immediate effect so that the source of spreading infection is effectively contained and lockdown in the state is implemented in true letter and spirit.” Bengal’s lockdown begins at 5 pm Monday.

However, Delhi on Monday — day one of the lockdown with no public transport services including Delhi Metro, private buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws — saw traffic jams on the sealed borders of UP (leading to Noida and Ghaziabad) and Haryana (Gurgaon and Faridabad). Passengers, crew and others who need to commute between IGI Airport and their homes come from all over NCR and faced a lot of trouble.

With several states and their capitals in lockdown making it tough for anyone — passengers, crew and other people working at airports — to commute, the government has now decided to stop domestic flights from Wednesday midnight.

Other countries are also stopping passenger flights. UAE, for instance, will not allow any passenger flight, except special evacuation ones, from March 25.

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