Coronavirus Outbreak: Government Suspends Domestic Passenger Flights Till April 1
Mumbai airport T2 terminal. (Source: BloombergQuint)

Coronavirus Outbreak: Government Suspends Domestic Passenger Flights Till April 1

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No domestic commercial passenger flight will be allowed to operate in the country from Tuesday midnight till April 1 to restrict travel amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Union Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement today.

India has already banned international flights for a week from Sunday.

“The operations of domestic schedule commercial airlines shall cease with effect from the midnight that is 23.59 hours IST (Indian Standard Time) on March 24, 2020,” a ministry spokesperson said.

“Airlines have to plan operations so as to land at their destinations before 23.59 hours on March 24, 2020,” he said.

The restrictions will not apply to cargo flights, but will be applicable to private jets.

Later during the day, the ministry issued an order stating that the ban would remain in force for domestic commercial passenger flights from 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday to 11:59 p.m. on March 31.

Along with cargo flights, off-shore helicopter operations, medical evacuation flights or flights “specifically” approved by aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation can operate as usual, the order said.

“The above restrictions shall not apply to aircraft or helicopter belonging to or being operated on behalf of a state government or union territory,” the ministry's order clarified.

It stated that chartered flights of private aircraft operators will also not operate from midnight March 24 to midnight March 31.

“All airports shall continue to function for handling the permitted flight operations,” the order said.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, airlines have saw drastic reduction in their revenues, which has lead to paycuts and layoffs.

GoAir has laid off its expat pilots, announced leave without pay for its employees and pay cut for its top leadership. Air India has cut allowances of its employees -- except cabin crew -- by 10 percent. IndiGo has announced pay cut of up to 25 percent for its senior employees.

Also read: Coronavirus Could Bankrupt Most Airlines by End of May, Consultant Warns

CAPA India Says Suspension Likely To Be Extended

Domestic air services are likely to remain suspended beyond March 31 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to aviation consultancy CAPA.

The government clearly sees heightened risks related to the coronavirus virus and is determined to take unprecedented action to slow its transmission, it said.

“The timing of the resumption of services is entirely in the control of the government, but it will most likely be beyond March 31,” CAPA said in a note.

For airlines, the suspension of domestic flights coincides with a destruction of demand in the last few days, CAPA said. With no air services, entire Indian commercial fleet of around 650 aircraft lies grounded, it added.

CAPA said that severity of disruption which the Indian aviation industry is experiencing would have an impact that would be felt well beyond FY21, unless the government is able to provide quick and meaningful support.

“Industry stability in the post-Covid period will also depend upon promoters of distressed airlines themselves bringing in significant funds,” CAPA said.

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