India’s aviation and tourism industry, reeling from the impact of the global outbreak of coronavirus, is seeking help from the government to mitigate the financial impact of the epidemic.
The Association of Private Airport Operators (APAO) has written to the civil aviation ministry seeking an alleviation package to deal with the higher expenses incurred to prevent the spread of the disease such as screening of passengers and disinfection.
The body has also asked for levying a “nominal passenger facilitation charge" on airline tickets to cover the extra cost. “The trade impact of the coronavirus epidemic for India is estimated to be about $348 million and the country figures among the top five economies most affected as slowdown of manufacturing in China disrupts world trade, according to a UN report," the APAO said in a letter to the ministry of civil aviation.
The drop in passenger traffic has also impacted non-aero revenues such as food and beverage sales, the APAO said. “Ensuring compliance with government advisories on screening of passengers has required airports to significantly beef up its manpower deployment at airports as well as make expenditure on various items like masks, sanitizers and floor cleaners," the association said.
The development came on a day when the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) asked airlines to waive cancellation and re-scheduling charges for passengers amid the Covid-19 crisis. “In light of hardships faced by passengers, airlines may like to consider and take an appropriate call, accordingly," a circular from the regulator said.
Global airline industry lobby group, International Air Transport Association (IATA), suggested that governments across the world roll out reliefs for airlines, which have sustained losses. “Airlines are doing their best to stay afloat as they perform the vital task of linking the world’s economies. As governments look to stimulus measures, the airline industry will need consideration for relief on taxes, charges and slot allocation," IATA’s director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac, said, adding that “these were extraordinary times".
“It is unclear how the virus will develop, but whether we see the impact contained to a few markets and a $63 billion revenue loss, or a broader impact leading to a $113 billion loss of revenue, this is a crisis," he said.
A spokesperson of the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), an industry body comprising GoAir, IndiGo and SpiceJet, among others, did not respond to a query.
The tourism industry has also been impacted by the outbreak of Covid-19, which has prompted the Indian government to ban entry of foreigners till 15 April. Hotel occupancies have plummeted since the imposition of the ban.
Subhash Goyal, chairman of the tourism committee at Assocham, also urged the government to work out a package for the tourism industry “to save jobs and our economy from collapsing without compromising on safety and preventive measures".