Sunday, May 24, 2020

Hours before flights resume, government orders airlines to curtail schedules

In a last-minute set of moves that will aggravate airline confusion and passenger suffering manifold, the central government has mandated airlines to curtail flight operations much further to what it had approved last Thursday as they hurtle towards a resumption of operations from midnight.
The government Thursday allowed a calibrated resumption of domestic flights two months after they were suspended as part of a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus crisis. The aviation ministry had also approved a schedule of flights.
The sudden move of further curtailment means airlines need to hurriedly file fresh schedules for flights in the next few hours. It also means hundreds of passengers who booked tickets in the last few days face more cancelled tickets for which they will get no refund.

In a meeting with airline chiefs, officials at India’s civil aviation ministry said they can only operate 25 departures out of the Mumbai airport from May 25. This makes a total of 50 flight movements, less than a fourth of the flight schedule approved by the Centre on Thursday and tenth of the usual number of daily flights Mumbai used to handle before the Coronavirus crisis.
The airline will have to sit and decide with the aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and airport operators, which airline will be allocated how many flight slots.
“There is no way we can do it,” said a senior executive of an airline.
The ministry officials also said the airlines can operate just 10 departures from Kolkata and Bagdogra in West Bengal from May 28; 15 departures from Telangana starting May 25, and just 20% of the normal schedule frmo Vishakhapatnam and Vijaywada starting May 26. The airline chiefs were told a fresh set of instructions for Tamil Nadu will be given later tonight.
The Centre’s move came after states such as Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu opposed the resumption of flights from May 25., saying it would increase the risk of the spread of the virus.
Earlier in the day, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray tweeted he has communicated to the aviation minister that Mumbai should, for now, initiate “minimum possible domestic flights” like for medical emergencies, international transfers, student travel and travel on compassionate grounds.
Two hours before the evening briefing briefing, Mumbai airport sent an email to all airlines saying they had file a schedule for 45 departures. The airlines had hurriedly put together a schedule before that was nullified by directions from the aviation ministry in its latest meeting.
24/05/20 Anirban Chowdhury/Economic Times

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