The government had cancelled all trains and airlines as part of its enforcement of the national lockdown that it implemented in three consecutive phases. Post the 40-day lockdown that ended 3 May, the government extended it by another two weeks with some relaxations.
The move to allow flights comes after the government permitted resumption of train services from 12 May.
“We are ready to start operations. Whenever the government permits us, we will take little time to resume," an official with the Airports Authority of India told Mint. AAI operates bulk of the airports in the country barring some privates ones at Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru where it is a minority partner.
The news of the government likely to permit local flights soon sent shares of airline companies soaring. Spicejet shares rose nearly 5% to Rs40.80 on the BSE while those of Interglobe Aviation, the company behind India’s largest carrier Indigo, rose 4.2% to Rs968. This was even as the broader market index, the BSE Sensex, fell 0.3% to 31,561.22
Resumption of train and flight services is crucial to get the economy going, dented as it is by the world’s most stringent lockdown.
Various stakeholders including travel operators and airline companies told Mint they are awaiting government order on the resumption of flights and would start them soon.
Permission to operate international flights will take longer, given that issues of logistics and security and safety as well as health are bigger and more sensitive there. India has been amongst the best performing countries in the world in combating covid-19, keeping both the number of affected and the dead low.
The resumption of flights will bring a relief to thousands of passengers as their money was stuck at the end of either the airlines or the travel agent. Many airlines, instead of returning the money to the passengers, created a ‘credit shell’ of the same amount which the passengers could use any time in a year’s time to fly. Passengers were thus locked in with the same airline they had booked the ticket with originally and are forced to fly with it even if they do not wish to.
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