Friday, May 22, 2020

Domestic flights to resume: Phased escalation of flight ops, new protocols, then decision on international flights, says Hardeep Singh Puri

After the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation released detailed guidelines for resuming domestic operations from May 25, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, talking to IE, said that there has been no delay in announcing the resumption of operations. He said that the decision to halt all flights was taken as a part of India’s holistic and integrated response to the coronavirus pandemic, and now that the lockdown restrictions are being eased, flights are also being resumed.

On being asked about the experience of other countries with regard to the opening of limited domestic routes, the minister told IE that the civil aviation industry all over the world has been among those which have been the worst impacted by the pandemic. He said that while experience may vary, the countries who have opened up the aviation sector are seeing a reduction in demand, and are even reporting of empty flights. He added that new protocols regarding the movement of passengers are being developed, the report stated.
Speaking about the expectations from phase two of the opening of aviation sector, Puri told IE that the Centre is intending to carry out a phased escalation of operations, and now that some domestic flights have been announced in phase one, the Centre can look at how it goes and take a decision on international flights.

He further told IE that metro cities like Delhi and Mumbai are among the places which have been hit the worst by the pandemic, with both being classified as red zones. Both of these places are, on the other hand, major economic centres for the aviation industry, accounting for highest traffic movement. He added that various airlines have also developed their hubs of operations in these cities. However, keeping in mind the severity of the situation, the protocols and SOPs laid out by the Union ministry will have to be followed by the airlines, he asserted.

He also said that the views of airlines and other stakeholders were taken into consideration while developing the SOPs.
Talking about the financial costs the airlines would have to bear, the minister said that the Centre took a holistic approach and took the decision to not leave middle seats vacant. The decision was taken after experts opined that leaving middle seats vacant would also not lead to the following of social distancing norms. Flights in other countries are also not using this measure, and so the Centre also decided to forego this measure, keeping in mind the fact that airlines are already facing losses. Apart from this, if the cost of middle seat vacant had been transferred to the tickets of other passengers to make operations commercially viable for carriers, then the cost would have been too high for the passengers.
22/05/20 Financial Express
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