Domestic flights to resume post-lockdown on this condition, Aviation Minister says keeping middle-seat empty not an option
New Delhi | Jagran Auto Desk: Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has said that domestic flight services will resume only when both the arrival and departure cities are in Green Zone.
In an interview to News18, Puri said that resuming flight services will be a daunting task as the zones keep on changing based on the coronavirus cases reported in each area.
Puri also said that keeping the middle seat empty in flights to maintain social distancing is not an option and airlines will have to find a different solution to prevent the spread of the virus.
In the interview, he cited the low margin of air carriers and said that if the middle row seats are forced to keep empty, many airlines might choose not to operate the flights, adding that flying a plane one-third empty is not feasible.
The airlines have already rejected the proposal to keep middle seats vacant once flights resume.
In a meeting held last month with the government to discuss social distancing measures, promoters of airlines called the proposed rules redundant while pointing out that such measures of distancing were unlikely to ensure complete safety for passengers. However, such a step would worsen the economics for airlines hit hard by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, they said.
The airlines have instead suggested compulsory personal protective equipment like suit, gloves and mask for flyers and crew members.
Airline executives argue that in a single aisle narrow body aircraft, leaving the middle seat empty will not guarantee the necessary 2 metre (which is roughly 78 inches) distance - which has been suggested by health agencies across the world to prevent catching or spreading of the flu.
India has been under lockdown since March 25 to curb the spread of novel coronavirus. All domestic and international commercial passenger flights have been suspended during this period.
The domestic aviation industry, which has been severely hit by the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent lockdown, is expected to crash-land this fiscal with a massive revenue loss of Rs 24,000-25,000 crore, as per a Crisil report.
Airlines will be the worst-affected segment, contributing more than 70 per cent to the losses (around Rs 17,000 crore), said Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, Director and Practice Leader, Transport and Logistics, Crisil Infrastructure Advisory.
Airport operators are likely to suffer losses worth Rs 5,000-5,500 crore and airport retailers will see a hit of Rs 1,700-1,800 crore, he noted.
Posted By: Abhinav Gupta