Following the extension of India’s lockdown until 3rd May, IndiGo has announced plans for restarting operations post-lockdown. The airline will restart flights from 4th May, beginning with vital domestic routes and then slowly expanding. The airline also intends to follow social distancing practices on all its flights. But what will this look like? Let’s find out.
Restarting in phases
In a press release, IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta announced the airline would restart operations on “vital corridors of air traffic” from 4th May. The airline will begin with these critical routes and then gradually ramp up capacity on other domestic flights. International flights will start at a later date, following government approval and lifting of travel restrictions.
While exact routes are yet to be announced, it is safe to say significant cities will be the first to see flights. The airline will then likely open operations on more routes depending on demand. This phased approach means IndiGo will still leave a large part of its fleet parked for the next few months as it slowly ramps up capacity. Before the coronavirus situation, IndiGo flew over 1,500 daily flights with a fleet of 250 aircraft.
Health measures a top priority
As airlines look to restart operations quickly, health measures will be crucial to ensuring passengers feel safe enough to travel. IndiGo’s statement emphasized the need to protect passengers and staff and announced new standards for the same. The airline will ensure a “significantly higher level of cleanliness,” enforce social distancing on all flights and reduce most onboard services. More details on these measures will likely be announced in the coming weeks.
The new measures could also include deep cleaning planes after every few flights and leaving the middle seat free to create distance between passengers. The new cleanliness plans may also force IndiGo to abandon its quick turnaround times for more thorough aircraft cleaning. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) recently put out draft rules to ensure passenger safety once flights resume. This includes flying planes at a 60% capacity to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and reducing services at airports and onboard to minimize contact.
What will be the impact on the industry?
IndiGo’s plans indicate that the industry is unlikely to rebound to its previous capacity soon. Passengers flying in the coming months will mostly consist of business travelers and those returning home. Leisure travel will probably remain non-existent until the end of the year or when the pandemic ends, whichever is later, as passengers ask themselves if it is safe to fly.
Combined with new social distancing measures, we could see fares skyrocket as passengers try to book a limited number of seats, and airlines try to turn a profit from fewer flights than before. Most Indian airlines have already cut salaries for their staff and wait for a government bailout, which is still being drafted after previous plans were shelved. The coronavirus is more and more looking like it will leave a lasting impact on Indian aviation.
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