More than 50 pilots and cabin crew of IndiGo are now stuck in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, and Mumbai as the government has withheld permission to ferry flights to bring them back to their bases.
AirAsia India has two pilots from its Bengaluru base stranded in Kolkata, while SpiceJet and Vistara said all their crew members returned to their bases on Tuesday after the suspension of all domestic operations on Tuesday midnight.
The suspension excludes domestic and international cargo services and flights specifically approved by the government.
IndiGo operated over 800 flights on Tuesday, more than half of its normal schedule. Its duty patterns require pilots and crew to operate flights from other cities with an overnight stay away from the base.
The airline had worked out a schedule in such a way that all such pilots and crew could return to their base. “We had plans to bring all of our crew back, but some planned flights got cancelled and as a result over 50 pilots and crew got stuck,” said an airline source familiar with the matter.
IndiGo management then planned relief flights to ferry crew to their bases. “Necessary approvals were sought and secured at the local level but same were withheld as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced 21-day nationwide lockdown,” the source added.
A senior official of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation confirmed that IndiGo had approached the regulator seeking special permission to ferry flights, but the regulator turned it down citing the lockdown.
“The direction… was very clear that no flight will be allowed to take off after 12 am. The airlines should have planned accordingly.
As of now, we aren’t giving permission to any special flight other than foreign countries evacuating their citizens,” the official said.
IndiGo did not immediately respond to an e-mail sent for comments. A SpiceJet spokesperson said, “All our crew reached their home bases on Tuesday night. Cargo aircraft pilots continue to operate from different bases as required”. A few of SpiceJet crew traveled on other airlines to reach their home base and tickets were provided by the airline.