NEW DELHI: Airlines cancelled flights to the country’s northeast amid widespread protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which led to the shutting down of one of the busiest airports in the region, Dibrugarh, in Upper Assam, on Thursday.
“We have cancelled all nine flights for Dibrugarh—from Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati—because there was no transport on the roads outside the airport because of the protest and passengers who arrived early morning were stranded for as long as six hours,” Sanjeev Jindal, Airports Authority of India’s regional executive director for the northeast region, said over the phone. The upper Assam region has been the worst hit by the protests, Jindal said.
Vistara, Air India, SpiceJet, and IndiGo operate flights to and from Dibrugarh, according to travel website Yatra.com
India’s largest airline, IndiGo, said that it cancelled flights to and from Guwahati on Thursday because of the unrest, though it operated relief flights at capped fares for passengers stranded at these locations. It dispatched an empty aircraft from Kolkata to Dibrugarh to carry 178 stranded passengers back to the West Bengal capital from there, Jindal said.
IndiGo is also offering waivers on rescheduling and cancellation fees for travel to or from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, and Jorhat till Friday, the airline said. SpiceJet tweeted it has cancelled four flights between Dibrugarh, Guwahati, and Kolkata, offering full refund and waiver of cancellation or change fee for all flights to and from Guwahati and Dibrugarh till Friday.
However, Guwahati airport operations, unlike that in Dibrugarh, have not been shut down, despite road transport problems, Jindal said.
Vistara also cancelled a flight between Dibrugarh and Bagdogra and is also waiving rescheduling and cancellation fees till Friday, according to information tweeted by the airline.
The government, AAI, and the airlines are keeping a close watch on the situation in the northeast, according to officials. Jindal urged the government to facilitate more flights to rescue stranded passengers, many of whom had travelled for seasonal holidays.
A GoAir spokesperson said the airline’s flights to the Northeast are operating normally. The airline operates nine flights to and from Guwahati, Bagdogra and Aizawl, he said.
Air India tweeted that it has waived charges on re-booking, date change, cancellation and refunds for flights to and from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Lilabari, Tezpur and Agartala airports for travel from December 11-15.
Guwahati and Dibrugarh have been placed under indefinite curfew because of massive protests following the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. The protests are over allowing citizenship to immigrants from outside the state, and the potential change in demographics it can cause.