India’s top six airports are now home to about 80% of grounded planes.
The fact that the government has allowed non-essential cargo for industry to be ferried for a fee has also opened up a potential business avenue for airlines, which are struggling with a loss of revenue due to the grounding of flights.
In February, GMR Group had signed an agreement with France’s Groupe ADP to divest 49% stake in GAL.
“The government had asked us to convert some of our fleet to be used for transportation but that has not been accepted from our side,” said a senior Air India official. “It would have required removing seats from the aircraft and getting further approvals to run it as a cargo plane, which involves cost as well as time.”
“Revenue loss of $250 bn in 2020 over 2019… which is a 44% decline over 2019… Before any recovery takes place, airlines may run out of cash,” said Brian Pearce, chief economist at IATA. Earlier, in February, IATA had estimated that global airlines would lose about $113 bn in revenues due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
After coronavirus hit India, Indian airlines have been rescheduling operations to adjust to the low demand across the country. All carriers, prior to Covid-19, operated a fleet of over 650 aircraft, which had already reduced to 385 aircraft by Monday morning. CAPA, predicts the aviation industry will be hugely impacted by Coronavirus-led slowdown.
“The operations of domestic schedule commercial airlines shall cease operations with effective from the mid night that is 23.59 hours IST on 24/3/2020,” said a statement from the government.
The recent order is part of various social distancing norm announced by the aviation regulator. These rules include maintaining a distance between two passengers at the time of check-in and boarding. Airlines have also been asked to maintain a gap of 1 metre between two check-in counters.
The government on Thursday said no scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft will be allowed to land in India from March 22 for one week. The ban is only on commercial passenger aircraft and not on aeroplanes carrying freight. With this order, about 100 international flights daily which are being operated as on date, will be cancelled.
Government officials admitted that airlines were not providing cancellation fee waiver but added that the government might not act. “It is probably not the best time in view of the financial problems airlines are facing due to Covid-19,” said a senior government official, who did not want to be named.
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