Why Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport shut down Terminal 2
Footfall at the Delhi airport is currently down to about 35,000 per day
As passenger numbers at Indian airports have gone down drastically under the onslaught of a fearsome Covid-19 surge, Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) has decided to consolidate flight operations at Terminal 3. The airport's Terminal 2 has been closed down.
According to a Delhi airport official, passenger footfall at the Delhi airport had crossed around one lakh per day at the start of this year as India's aviation sector was moving steadily towards pre-pandemic normalcy, The Times of India reported.
However, as the country started to be battered by the second Covid wave, passenger numbers began to fall too. Soon, the country found itself neck-deep in a Covid mess, and footfall at the Delhi airport is currently down to about 35,000 per day. As of May 17, the footfall at airports across India is 86,922, which is much less than where the sector found itself even a few months back.
"All flight operations at Delhi airport will be shifted to T3 effectively from 18th May 00.01 hours. All passengers are required to complete their web check-in at home for a contactless journey," Delhi airport tweeted.
"We have decided to close operations at Terminal 2 to make it easier for airlines to operate and manage their staff. It will also be easier for passengers to fly from one terminal," the Delhi airport official mentioned by TOI said. Indeed the lack of passengers means that flight operations would be sufficiently handled at T3 itself and it would also be wise to consolidate all operations at one terminal given the severe coronavirus crisis.
IndiGo and GoFirst tweeted to remind passengers about terminal changes at the Delhi airport following the shutting down of T2.
The domestic terminals of the Delhi airport were shut down as India imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 25 last year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. When the domestic aviation sector was reopened in a calibrated manner on May 25, only T3 was opened. T2 was started in October 2020, while T1 remained shut due to the ongoing expansion work. Delhi airport officials said that work on T1 would take at least another year-and-a-half to complete and is expected to double the passenger capacity from 20 million to 40 million annually, The Hindustan Times reported.
As the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), buoyed by improving passenger numbers, was planning to increase flight capacity to 100%, the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) looked to start operations from T1 in a limited way from March 25 this year. The date was later pushed to March 28 and then to May as the MoCA allowed only 80% traffic movement at airports, which could be sufficiently handled by the other terminals. However, T1 remains closed and now T2 has been closed too.
This comes after Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) decided to consolidate all domestic and international flight operations through Terminal 2 in view of the Covid crisis. As a result, all domestic flights operating from T1 was shifted to T2 from April 21, 2021. Maharashtra had led the country in terms of Covid infections since the outbreak of the pandemic last year and is the state worst affected by the ongoing Covid surge as well.
The Delhi airport has been currently handling around 320 flight per day. Before the outbreak of the pandemic, it was handling over 1,400 daily flight movements. Over the past three weeks, the airport has been receiving three flights on an average each day with vital Covid-related international aid, including oxygen concentrators and cylinders, personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, N95 masks, rapid test kits and medicines. It has also been hosting flights carrying Covid vaccines.
According to Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) data, India added 2,67,334 new Covid cases on May 19. However, the positive point is that active cases in India fell by 1,27,046 over 24 hours. India's daily Covid count had crossed four lakh a few weeks back, which, many feared, was the sign of an impending apocalypse. With falling numbers, it is possible that India is starting to regain some degree of control over the pandemic.