The Indian airline industry is one of the worst affected due to the spread of coronavirus. For nearly two months, since the 25th of March, no scheduled passenger flights have operated across the country. Although the number of cases in India is increasing, the government has assessed that resuming flights is imperative to economic recovery. The current nationwide lockdown is scheduled to end on the 18th of May; however, airlines have still not received the green light to take bookings.
India has, for a long time, been the fastest-growing aviation market in the World. The fifth-largest airline industry is just behind the US, China, Japan, and the UK in terms of passenger numbers. IATA had predicted that it wouldn’t take long for the country to be the driving factor for the growth in this sector.
However, strict measures have forced the Indian market into an unprecedented situation. In total, India’s passenger numbers are expected to fall by 47% as compared to last year.
How, when, and where will the flights resume?
Since the last week, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the airlines have been in a discussion regarding the restart of scheduled services. The plan is to start flights at much lesser frequencies while keeping in mind the safety of passengers. Until the country gets complete control of the pandemic, only essential and business travel will be allowed.
Since the start of the flight ban, many Indian carriers had taken opportunities to take bookings whenever a period of lockdown got over. Consequently, they were forced to cancel flights and refund the full amount to all the passengers.
DGCA has now made sure that airlines don’t allow bookings until they are allowed to do so. Every airline will hence be provided with a detailed guideline ten days before the planned resumption date.
Like China, India has divided the country into different parts, depending on the number of coronavirus cases in the region. It is expected that initially, flights will only operate in the safe/green zones. However, most of the country’s major hubs lie in either red or yellow zones.
This could mean that flights might operate almost empty with negligible revenue. Moreover, the current demand across the country is only for essential travel. Specifically, migrant workers wanting to return home. Since most of the passenger demand in India is concentrated among the top ten airports, not allowing flights from these cities will be impractical.
Aviation analysts have said that domestic flights in India will not resume until at least the next month. Even if they do, airlines will have to follow a stringent set of procedures, including social distancing on flights and at airports. It can also be assumed that face masks will be compulsory for all travelers, including the flight crew.
As far as the international flights are concerned, there has been no discussion on this topic yet. India is still busy with the repatriation of its large diaspora abroad, and foreign carriers might only be allowed when the country is relatively safer. For now, the government is focusing on the revival of flights only within India.
When do you think flights will resume in India? Let us know in the comments.