Covid-19: India to open its skies in phases after lockdown is lifted

Topics Coronavirus | DGCA | Lockdown

The government used one clause in the Aircraft Act, 1934 to suspend the operations.
The government is likely to take a phased approach to open up the skies as and when the lockdown period is over, officials aware of the plan said. The model is going to be followed for both domestic and international flights.

The Indian government had initiated a 21-day nation-wide lockdown, preventing movement of people, including flights, till 14 April, in an attempt to contain the spread of Covid-19, which has claimed thousands of lives worldwide.

“The plan is to have a phased approach to open air travel. The top 10 airports, in terms of passenger movement, may be opened first followed by other cities, and at last international travel,” a government official aware of the matter said.

The idea behind this is to prevent crowding at airports and a control on identification of passengers, in case a positive case is identified.

The top 10 airports of India include the four metro cities and Pune, Cochin, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, and Goa.

However, airlines are taking bookings on all sectors starting 15 April, as the direction issued by aviation regulator DGCA had banned flights till April 14.

The official said many countries have voluntarily shut their border, so airlines would have to adhere to that. For instance, London has announced a flight ban till end of April. The US is also planning to ban air travel, as cases rise exponentially.

"The government will take a holistic view. When conditions become safe in other countries, we can start flights," civil aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said at a press conference held through Zoom, a videoconferencing app.

This is the first time India has effected a total shutdown of its air transport. A similar action was taken by the US after the terror attack on the World Trade Centre on 11 September, 2001. 

On the phased approach to open air travel, airline executives said it would work out perfectly, as demand for air travel will be less. 

“I don’t think airlines themselves are looking to start 100 per cent routes from Day 1. It will take a long time for demand to come back, even if the lockdown is lifted,” an executive said. The executive said, however, that corporate travel, a high-value segment of airlines, is likely to suffer for some more time."

Global air passenger demand sees sharpest decline since 9/11

The Covid-19 pandemic sent global air passenger demand plunging 14 per cent in February, marking the steepest decline in traffic since the September 11 attacks in 2001, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Thursday. "Airlines were hit by a sledgehammer called Covid-19 in February," Alexandre de Juniac, head of the IATA, said in a statement. AFP/PTI

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