Overwhelmed by the heavy rush at Terminal 2 (T2) of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) on Friday morning, airport operator Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) has advanced the opening of Terminal 1 (T1) from October 20 to October 13.
GoFirst will be the first airline to start operations from T1 from October 13, followed by AirAsia India on October 16. The terminal has been shut since the Covid-19 pandemic erupted last March. Only T2 has remained functional.
A MIAL spokesperson said additional personnel would be deployed to handle the rush at the security gates in T2. Additional X-ray machines will be installed over the next four days and passengers should report early, the spokesperson added.
The airport witnessed chaotic scenes on Friday due to heavy passenger rush amid the festive season and airlines advising travellers to report early to allow sufficient time for security check.
Passengers took to social media and posted pictures of the unprecedented rush, the likes of which have never before been seen at T2 before. From the photographs and videos, the terminal resembled a crowded railway station during rush hour. Many passengers could not make it to their flights, as they could not even enter the airport.
A passenger on way to Bagdogra said, “The airport and airlines staffers, as well as CISF personnel, were completely outnumbered. One woman was breathless after she missed her flight to Srinagar.
Another man was at security gate at 7.45 am when his flight was to take off at 7.25 am. I also reached the gate late, but was allowed to board after I pleaded with the officials.’’
A first officer of an airline said, “We take utmost care inside flights, but there was no social distancing today. Some had not even masked up.”
Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said, “We have already told the airport that it has to follow Covid-19 norms… We fear that these passengers may return with Covid-19. Social distancing has to be maintained.”
In a statement, the airport operator said with the onset of the festive season, there has been a surge in passenger traffic and a sudden spike was witnessed at CSMIA in the morning. Other city airports of the country also witnessed similar scenes, it added. Airlines such as Vistara and Indigo asked passengers to check in early.
According to MIAL, owing to recent intelligence reports received by stakeholders and threats at another airport in the state, security has been further beefed up at CSMIA. “The security and safety of our passengers are of utmost priority and our endeavour is to continue to not compromise on these critical aspects,” it added.
The CSMIA has deployed additional staff for a quicker turnaround at all security checkpoints. Additionally, the airport is following all Covid-19 protocols laid down by the government, the statement said.
In a tweet, Bollywood musician Vishal Dadlani said, “Literally feels like we’re in the dark ages”.