No need for aviation sector to worry about coronavirus: Hardeep Puri

A doctor checks Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri at the Wings India 2020 event in Hyderabad
Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Saturday that there was no need for any contingency plan for the aviation sector owing to the coronavirus outbreak. According to Puri, it was just a passing phase.

“No one has asked for any contingency plan or a bailout package even though issues like bringing aviation turbine fuel (ATF) — which forms 40 per cent of the operational cost of an airline — under GST was discussed. We meet stakeholders on a regular basis to understand their issues,” said Puri, after attending the CEOs forum deliberations at the Wings India 2020 summit.

The minister said bringing ATF under the GST regime, extending credit for one month to airlines by oil companies or adjusting ATF rates every 15 days instead of one month would be implemented soon. 

The meeting also discussed matters like aviation financing and leasing, capacity building, aviation safety and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), among other things.

The civil aviation minister asserted that agencies under his ministry were able to effectively monitor airports against the spread of coronavirus without causing any panic.

“There may be a 15-20 per cent drop in domestic passenger traffic due to the virus threat but it is a temporary phase. We will not only overcome this challenge but also emerge as a robust aviation market in the future,” Puri said at Wings India 2020. 

He added that the country will have 1,200 aircraft in next few years, going by orders placed by some Indian operators. Referring to the passenger growth estimates, the minister also said India was going to touch the 1 billion passenger mark from the current 345 million, much ahead of the projected year of 2035. 

He added, airport operators, airline companies and those in training and maintenance will all work independently to benefit from the aviation industry’s growth potential.

According to the minister, Indian airports have so far screened 1.17 million international passengers for a possible coronavirus infection while 3,225 were subject to further examination.

“Our airports today constitute a benchmark for every airport in the world as to how they have to respond to a situation like this,” the minister added. He defended the ministry’s decision to go ahead with Wings India 2020 summit while stating that it was business as usual for the industry. The government was acting against the ongoing challenge in such a way that the country and the aviation sector will emerge stronger once the problem is behind us, he said.

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