Wednesday, July 08, 2020

India’s airline heads plead for immediate help

As the aviation industry both home and abroad still reel under the onslaught of the pandemic, India’s airline heads have warned of even a crash of the entire air transport sector if urgent help is not at hand.
“If (India’s) airlines collapse, there won’t be an aviation sector left,” says Ajay Singh, chairman and managing director of SpiceJet, wryly.
Passenger flights were shut down across the country when lockdown was announced from March 25, and remained in force for two months. The civil aviation ministry gave permission for graded restarting of 33 per cent domestic flights from May 25 onward, later permitting it to be raised to 45 per cent from this month onward.
However, public fear over infection, as well as various quarantine and other protocols followed by various states have proved to be a dampener—many flights are being cancelled due to lack of sufficient passengers, while most flights operate with just 55 to 60 per cent of seats filled on an average. An IATA public opinion survey says 84 per cent of erstwhile air travellers are afraid of catching COVID-19 if they fly.
An analysis by the Delhi-based aviation advisory firm, CAPA, says that India’s aviation sector will cumulatively lose upwards of Rs 28,000 crore this year due to the fallout. Worse, it predicts that the number of airlines left standing will be just two or three, with rest of the half a dozen airline companies shutting down unable to withstand the heavy losses.
“(Forget) looking for growth, the whole focus is on how to limit the de-growth!,” quips D.K. Aggarwal, president of the industry chamber PHD. He says a minimum of Rs 30,000 crore to Rs 50,000 crore financial aid is needed to prop up the aviation sector.
The Union government had announced measures like steps to make India a hub for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) to help the industry, but industry feels those are long term measures, while the need of the hour is urgent, short term measures.
08/07/20 K. Sunil Thomas/The Week
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