Special flights help meet demand as people scramble to leave violence-hit Manipur

Kolkata/Guwahati, May 8 (PTI) Several airlines were operating special flights from Imphal to help people stranded in violence-hit Manipur return home, officials said on Monday, maintaining that this resulted in airfares on the route not rocketing out of control despite the massive jump in demand.
    Regional carrier Flybig said it operates a Guhahati to Imphal flight via Tezu six days a week. But, since Saturday it has operated three additional flights between Imphal and Guwahati, on which people from Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Maharashtra returned from Imphal.
    "A total of 150 passengers were brought back from Imphal to Guwahati over the three days. On Saturday, people from Arunachal Pradesh were brought back, while people of Meghalaya came on Sunday, and a group from Maharashtra were brought to Guwahati on Monday," Flybig's director of corporate affairs Ajay Jasra told PTI.
    "Flybig operates under the UDAN scheme, and our average fare from Imphal to Guwahati is Rs 3,500. There is no question of charging more from distressed passengers," he said.
    AIX Connect, formerly AirAsia, will also operate a relief flight from Imphal to Guwahati on Tuesday, besides the two regular flights it operates on the route. The special flight will arrive at 11.15 am in Guwahati, an official said.
    Alliance Air operated two special flights on the Imphal-Guwahati route on Monday.
    The country's largest airline IndiGo said it has operated two special flights from Imphal to Kolkata on Saturday.
    Air India said it operated two special flights on the Imphal-Delhi route on Saturday and Sunday.
    Air India and IndiGo have waived fees for rescheduling and cancellation for all their flights to and from Imphal from May 4 to 7.
    According to travel websites on Monday evening, fares of direct flights from Imphal to Guwahati on Tuesday were around Rs 11,000, while on the Imphal-Kolkata route, it was around Rs 8,000.
    Most of the state governments were bearing the cost of air tickets of their people they were bringing back, officials said.
    An Airports Authority of India (AAI) official said various measures were being taken to help people at the Imphal airport, which has seen a huge rush of passengers trying to flee the state amid the ethnic violence that began on May 3.
    The AAI has set up a helpdesk at the airport for the stranded passengers.
    The Imphal airport served 10,531 passengers between May 4 and May 6, and handled a total of 108 flights, officials said.
    The airport, which usually handles 14 flights a day, operated 40 flights on Monday, they said.
    Ethnic clashes broke out in Manipur on Wednesday after tribals organised a demonstration in the ten hill districts of the state to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. The clashes displaced around 23,000 people and resulted in the deaths of at least 54 people.

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)