Sealed shops, deserted Terminal 3: Flying in the time of coronavirus

The stars and stripes of the US flag spread on the railings of the departure gate was perhaps the first ‘sight’ of relief for stranded American travellers who reached the Delhi airport to board the emergency flight to San Francisco on Sunday.

The flight would take them home to their families amid the lockdown due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

“Everyone was wearing masks. The Embassy gave me two masks. But maintaining distance as everyone queued up at the gates seemed very difficult which we were warned of in advance,” said one of the travellers who did not wish to be named.

The Terminal 3 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport looked eerily quiet as shop shelves were all empty, merchandise at the duty-free stores had been wrapped up in plastic, and the area cordoned off behind in a big blue plastic sheet.  Restaurants had piled up their chairs on top of each other.

“With all shops closed, the only exception was that they let us carry our own water. We had been told that there is limited availability of water. So, I carried a bottle and a packet of biscuits,” he added.
The security check and immigration was the same as always with usual scanning of laptops and electronic items being done in a separate tray, he said, as he boarded a full flight.

Besides the United Airlines flight to San Francisco, there were other flights too that were taking passengers, including several Indians, to various destinations at the airport.

The US-bound traveller had recently moved to a South Delhi flat to enjoy the city life, but destiny had other plans as the coronavirus outbreak dashed all such hopes. Stuck in one the hotspots, he leaped at the first opportunity that could get him back home, when he received a call from the US Embassy of a flight that was departing in the wee hours of April 13.

“It is a bit risky to go back right now but I would rather be with my family in these times than by myself for an indefinite period,” he said.


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