India allows domestic airlines to fly again from May 25 during Covid-19 lockdown

21, May. 2020

Special seating arrangement made at the Kolkata Airport in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal to help maintain social distancing norms during ongoing CovidD-19 lockdown on Monday, May 18, 2020. (PTI)
Special seating arrangement made at the Kolkata Airport in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal to help maintain social distancing norms during ongoing CovidD-19 lockdown on Monday, May 18, 2020. (PTI)

By Atul Ranjan

NEW DELHI, NNA - India will let domestic airlines resume flights from May 25 in a “calibrated manner” after grounding them for two months as part of shutdowns aimed at stopping the coronavirus spread, the civil aviation minister said Wednesday.

All airports and airlines are “being informed” to be ready for flights again, minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on his official Twitter account.

The ministry will issue standard operating procedures for passenger movement, he added.

India suspended all domestic flights March 25 as it announced a nationwide stay-home order. The nationwide order is due to expire May 31 after more than two months.

Airlines show signs of welcoming the news but a consultant cautions of a tough next three months, at least.

The resumption of flight will help lift overall economic sentiment in India, said Ajay Singh, chairman and managing director of domestic airline SpiceJet Ltd., one of four major airliners in India.

“SpiceJet is all geared up to resume operations and is committed to providing the highest level of cleanliness and a safe, secure and healthy flying experience to its passengers and staff,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

Restarting flights will help a large number of passengers by giving them access to India’s safest and quickest means of transport, the chairman said.

Resuming flights will be more complex than halting them because of potentially significant financial and operational challenges, aviation consultant CAPA India said in a May 1 report. Some airlines will stay grounded and some might not survive, it says.

“Indian aviation is expected to confront a series of challenges in the coming weeks and months, each of which could have a serious structural impact,” the report says. “The risks and implications are arguably underestimated at a policy level.”

Airlines will struggle to cover costs under the pandemic-hit Indian economy and a record lull in passenger demand from June through September, the report adds. Social distancing requirements could further erode passenger loads, it warns.

“Consumer interest in air travel and forward bookings have collapsed, with green shoots currently not visible until September,” CAPA said.