Moneycontrol PRO

Coronavirus impact | India suspends domestic flights from March 25

The restrictions shall not apply to solely cargo carrying flights

March 23, 2020 / 09:17 PM IST

India has suspended all domestic flights, except solely cargo-carrying flights, effective March 25.

"The operations of domestic schedule commercial airlines shall cease operations effective from the midnight that is 23.59 hours IST on 24/3/2020," said a communication from the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

"Airlines have to plan operations so as to land at their destination before 2359 hours on 24/3/2020. The restrictions shall not apply to solely cargo-carrying flights," it added.

India had already suspended much of the international flights, and many of the airlines, including IndiGo, SpiceJet and Vistara, had either truncated or discontinued their overseas operations.

Aviation regulator DGCA later said that the suspension will be till March 31. It further stated that aircraft owned by States can continue to fly.

Apart from flights, India has also suspended rail transport and much of the bus services  - inter and intra-state. Metro rail services have also been halted.

The steps are to limit people movement and thus restrict the spread of coronavirus, which has now reportedly infected 415 people in the country.  Seven have died.

Apart from India, UAE has also suspended air service. Most other countries have put several travel restrictions. Globally, the virus has now claimed more than 13,000 lives, and nearly 3.5 lakh people have been reported to be infected.

Severe turbulence 

The government's decision is something that the country's aviation industry had been fearing.

Airlines had already grounded about 40 percent of their fleet. IndiGo, GoAir, and SpiceJet had announced pay cuts, layoffs and withdrawn several incentives in a bid to reduce costs.

But these may not be enough to make up for the losses. For a few weeks now, airlines had been operating flights at less than 50 percent capacity. More recent anecdotal evidence puts it about 20 percent.

Advisory firm CAPA India had estimated losses at about $600 million, just for the first three months of the year. The numbers will spike up further with the complete suspension.

This is unchartered territory and unprecedented in the country's aviation industry. It is unlikely that all airlines will manage to stay in the air unless the government comes in with fiscal relief.

Moneycontrol News
first published: Mar 23, 2020 04:50 pm