HYDERABAD: The usual hustle-bustle of passengers and screaming noise of landing and taking-off aircraft is missing for more than 15 days at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the country which has now turned into a virtual parking lot for the flying machines.
About 50 aircraft belonging to various airlines can be seen parked at parking bays near the main runway, which remains operational to handle evacuation and cargo flights.
Aircraft of Air India, IndiGo, Vistara, GoAir and a couple of international airlines are seen parked in several rows.
The swanky airport, located at Shamshabad, about 30 km from the city, was handling 550 air traffic movements and about 60,000 passengers daily before COVID-19 induced lockdown came into effect last month.
Billed as the world’s third fastest-growing airport in the category of 15 million passengers in the world, it is also the best-connected airport in the south and central India, connecting 55 non-stop domestic destinations.
Airport sources told IANS that ever since the lockdown came into effect, all activity related to passenger operations came to a halt. However, the skeletal workforce continued to report for duties every day for essential services like maintenance of ACs, data server, security and sanitation.
“We can’t shut the airport. We have to maintain certain systems so that they don’t collapse and remain ready whenever the flight operations resume,” they said.
Air Traffic Control (ATC) and Air Navigation staff are also attending the duties as the airport continues to handle evacuation and cargo flights. “Employees are passing through thermal screening and all safety measures are being taken,” they said.
The lockdown has provided an opportunity to airport authorities to take up large-scale sanitation works in the entire airport. During normal operations, some of the areas are not properly covered due to continuous movement of passengers.
The Hyderabad airport, operated by GMR, continues to handle relief flights during the lockdown. A special Air India flight on April 7 airlifted 99 US citizens stuck in Hyderabad. It carried the US citizens to Mumbai, from where they were connected with Delta Airlines to their final destination in the US.
The passengers were serviced through the fully-sanitized main passenger terminal building, which was kept ready for evacuation operations.
On March 31, the airport handled a group of 38 German nationals who flew by a special flight of Air India which ferried the passengers from Chennai, Hyderabad and Mumbai to Frankfurt.
Earlier, on March 28 serviced a special medical evacuation flight of IndiGo, which dropped its eight crew members bound for Hyderabad and departed to Chennai with five stranded IndiGo crew members.
RGIA’s cargo terminal is also fully operational to keep the vital link of essential supplies completely alive. The cargo is working round the clock in close coordination with various agencies to keep rolling the critical chain of essential supplies like medicines, vaccines, medical equipment, pharma raw material and defence goods.