As India resumed domestic passenger flights in a graded manner on Monday, hundreds of people reached the Indira Gandhi International Airport here to take early morning flights to their hometowns and workplaces.
Flight operations remained shut for two months owing to the nationwide lockdown necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Those who took first flights included paramilitary personnel, army men, students and migrants, who failed to book a ticket on special trains being run by the railways.
Many said they shelled out more to reach the airport as there were limited public transport options available.
With trains running full and inter-state buses remaining off the roads, Sandeep Singh, 19, spent Rs 5,500 to reach Delhi from Dehradun where he studies. “I remained stuck in my PG. Mummy and papa were a worried lot. I am taking the first flight home,” he said.
Aamir Afzal, a mechanical engineer from Patna, who had come to Delhi on an official visit on March 23, was among those who took the flights to celebrate Eid with family and friends.
“I had been staying in a hotel in Mahipalpur with my co-worker. The hotel charged us Rs 900 per day. We could not get a confirmed ticket on a train back home,” he said.
Due to the lesser number of trains, the tickets get sold out within 5-10 minutes. It is difficult for a person to book a ticket using a mobile phone, Afzal said.
Afzal’s friend Rahid Ali said he was happy he would be able to join his family in Bihar’s Begusarai district on Eid.
“But it will be a muted affair as so many homeless and hungry migrants who cannot afford to travel on train or flight are still stuck in various parts of the country. It doesn’t suit one to celebrate the festival in such circumstances,” he said.
A few people travelled long distances only to find that their flights had been cancelled.
Naik Satish Kumar’s Kolkata-bound flight got cancelled as the state decided not to resume operations till May 28.
“I travelled all the way from Ambala on a bus to take a 6-am flight to Kolkata. When I reached here, I got to know the flight had been cancelled. I am returning home now,” he said.
Excited to meet his two-year-old daughter, Santu Mandal, a resident of West Bengal’s Bardhaman district, reached the airport along with brother, Nasiruddin Mandal, at 1 am, unaware that the flight to Kolkata had been cancelled.
The Mandal brothers, engaged in hand embroidery, spent Rs 12,000 to book the tickets “because we could not get a confirmed train ticket”.
It is the first time Sudhir Kumar will be on a plane.
The Army personnel posted in Punjab’s Bhatinda district says he never considered taking a flight home earlier as train travel is convenient and cheap.
But trains are full already, he said.