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Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

All flights will remain suspended at least till the end of this month

  • Indian airlines are estimated to be losing around 90 crore every day due to the shutdown of operations
  • Flights have been grounded since 25 March when the lockdown was first imposed

NEW DELHI : All domestic and international flights will remain suspended till 31 May, the government said on Sunday, as it extended the countrywide lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak by another fortnight.

Only domestic air ambulances, flights for medical services and security purposes, and repatriation flights by Air India will be allowed to operate during this period, the home ministry said in a circular.

India suspended all flights since 25 March when the government first imposed a nationwide lockdown. The lockdown has since been extended thrice, every fortnight, from the initial announcement date.

National carrier Air India Ltd on Sunday said it will resume flight bookings only after receiving directions from the government. It asked passengers to follow the Twitter handles of the civil aviation ministry and Air India, and their respective websites, for official announcements on resumption of flights.

An internal memo of Air India said earlier that all its domestic flights, except for charter and evacuation flights, will remain cancelled till 31 May, adding that the date for starting operations will be notified in due course.

“The delay in resumption of flights will hurt airlines dearly. As airline costs keep piling up, revenues have dried up completely. And, to top it, there’s an uncertainty with resumption of services," said an official with a no-frills carrier.

Spokespersons of IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir, Vistara and AirAsia India were not immediately available for comment.

Indian airlines are losing an estimated to 90 crore every day due to the shutdown of operations.

The airlines also expect weak demand due to traveller concerns of viral infection when flights resume.

“Considering the daily net loss of about 75-90 crore during the shutdown of operations and the expected weak demand, the Indian aviation industry will require additional funding of 325 billion-350 billion over FY2021-23," Kinjal Shah, vice president of rating agency Icra, said in a recent report.

According to Icra, the profitability of India’s airline industry is expected to be adversely impacted in FY21 due to lower revenues and high fixed costs (35-42% of the total cost of airlines).

“Overall, the industry will witness 41-46% degrowth in domestic passenger traffic and 67-72% degrowth in international passenger traffic for the Indian carriers in FY21," added the rating agency.

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