Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Coronavirus scare could scar India's airline sector

With coronavirus fear on the verge of scaling up in India, the story could just get grim for India's airline industry, even as internationally, the aviation story, by all prospects, is set to get from bad to worse.

Air India had already cancelled flights to China and Hong Kong last month itself. The spate of cancellations, as well as number of destinations being cancelled, have only been on an upward spiral since then.

All Air India flights to mainland China and Hong Kong remain suspended till end of June, while Indigo has cancelled flights to Guang Zhou and Chengdu from Delhi till June 14. Schedules for this month show that Vistara has cancelled a total of 54 international flights from India—34 to Singapore and 20 to Bangkok. “Vistara will continue to monitor the situation and progressively evaluate the need for any further adjustments,” according to a press note issued by the airline.

Now, the flight cancellation spree seems to be extending westward. Air India is now suspending many flights to Italy, as well as other affected countries like South Korea and Japan. “We are reducing frequency of these flights,” said Air India chairman Rajiv Bansal.

With three positive cases of the Covid-19 virus infection confirmed in India presently (the three previous cases in Kerala have all been declared infection-free and discharged), the fear is whether there would be a spread among the local populace, and if so, how it would affect domestic travel. India's domestic aviation sector, after being one of the fastest growing in the world in the last few years, had gone in for a tumble in 2019 following a slowdown in the economy and bankruptcy of the leading private full-services carrier Jet Airways, back in April last. Domestic growth was just two per cent in January, the month coronavirus struck, and the figures for February and March is expected to be worse.
03/03/20 K. Sunil Thomas/The Week

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