As India’s current lockdown comes to an end, airlines are reportedly asking travel agents to prepare for ticket sales starting May 18th. This could mean domestic flights will resume as early as next week, nearly seven weeks after their grounding. The government has spent the last week collecting suggestions on guidelines for flying post-lockdown. So will we see flights again soon? Let’s find out.
Preparations begin for resuming flights
The last week has seen a flurry of action from India’s Civil Aviation Ministry and others, who are drafting guidelines to restart flights. In its draft guidelines, the government has laid out social distancing protocols at airports, mandatory online check-in, and earlier airport arrivals for medical checks. The government has clarified that all of these guidelines are still subject to change after discussion with airlines and stakeholders.
However, the pace of the planning does point to a quick resumption of flights. Flights are also widely expected to return in a staggered manner, meaning airlines will slowly increase capacity.
India has divided the country into green, yellow, and red zones depending on the number of cases detected. Initially, flights could only be allowed to ply between green zones (areas without new cases in the last two weeks). However, all of India’s major hubs of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, and Hyderabad fall in either the yellow or red zones, raising doubts about this plan. This could mean some key cities will not see flights as soon as others.
Flights will return, but will demand?
While airlines are desperate to resume operations, they could struggle with a lack of demand. The first few weeks will see a spike in air travel, as thousands take flights to return home or for work, but this could level off soon. With leisure travelers unlikely to travel due to government advisories, airlines may struggle to fill planes. Business travelers are also expected to remain home, as offices around the country remain shuttered.
In both China and the US, the few countries running substantial domestic operations, airlines have seen passenger levels plummet. Airlines in India could see a similar fate after an initial spike in travelers. However, carriers are desperate to return to the air as they struggle financially from the flight ban.
The next few days will provide us with more clarity on how and when domestic flights will resume. While airlines telling travel agents to prepare to sell tickets is a positive sign for those who wish to fly, airlines have jumped the gun on ticket sales in the past and paid heavily for it.
For those who need to travel for essential purposes can considering booking tickets now thanks to the generous flight change policies currently being offered. However, it is still best to wait for the official notification before doing so.
What do you think about India’s plan to resume flights? Do you need to travel for essential purposes? Let us know in the comments below.