India is fully prepared to start air travel amid the Covid-19 pandemic: Civil aviation minister

The shortage pushed up airfares, allowing Air India to make a windfall. Photo: Nikkei Asian Review. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

NEW DELHI, May 9, 2020, India Today. Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri said that while air travel will significantly change in a Covid-19 world, India is prepared to make all changes and take to the skies again, India Today reported.

Hardeep Puri shared the news on e-Agenda Aaj Tak and said that any losses incurred by the aviation industry due to Covid-19 and lockdown will be absorbed by the early resumption of economic activity.

Speaking to Aaj Tak he said, “All projected losses are based on the back of the envelope calculations. The full loss will depend on how long the lockdown continues. All sectors are facing the economic impact of lockdown. Our attempt is to resume economic activity as soon as possible while ensuring all precautions are followed.”

Will fear of Covid-19 reduce the country’s accessibility to air travel? According to Hardeep Puri, people will still need domestic air travel for business and personal reasons.

“I fully believe and can say confidently that even though problems will come but when we reopen this sector, our domestic traffic (India is the third-largest market for domestic aviation) will soon be back to normal. Not just for luxury, people need air travel for work. When we reopen, whatever loss is faced in the gap of these 2-3 months will be absorbed by airlines,” he added.

The civil aviation minister also said that India is fully prepared to start air travel as soon as the Centre gives the green light.

“We are fully ready. Our airports and other ancillary activities are prepared. We have asked airlines also to prepare themselves. As soon as the date for resumption is announced, we can start services. When that will happen I can’t say but we will reduce risk as much as possible,” Hardeep Puri said.

The Union minister also outlined some of the changes that will be witnessed in air travel keeping in mind Covid-19 precautions. “Now we won’t be able to permit queues at airports. Maybe you will have to print your boarding pass from home and passengers may have to arrive at the airport before the scheduled time. Even several airport procedures may have to be reduced. We may allow just one bag per person. The meal service also might be restricted. We have developed a strategy and will finalise this soon,” he explained.

Seeing as how badly hit civil aviation industry has been by the Covid-19 pandemic, will the government be announcing bailout packages for airlines? While Hardeep Puri dismissed bailouts, he said the government will take into consideration legitimate demands made by air carriers and support them to get back to work.

“I won’t call it bailout package. We have agreed to some demands that are legitimate such as a reduction in tax on aviation turbine fuel. I believe that we need to rationalise this. I have taken up many such demands with the Ministry of External Affairs. Our attempt is to help different industries as much as possible. However, the prioritisation will be on helping migrant and daily wage labourers. The finance ministry is working on this,” he said.

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