Despite the challenges, countries are opening up, and airlines are adding to their services
The aviation sector may be far from getting back to normalcy. In fact, IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta last week indicated that the country's largest airline may not reach its pre-COVID-19 levels before the mid of next year.
Internationally too, data from travel consultancy OAG show that passenger traffic in early July, despite getting better, was equivalent to the numbers way back in 1996!
But it's not all doom. Tell tale signs are beginning to emerge of the industry opening up. Globally, including in the US, Europe, Africa and Asia, airlines are slowly but surely ramping up daily flights and adding to destinations.
Which aviation markets are doing better?
A report by Airline Ratings says that nine out of the 10 biggest regional markets have been growing. Countries such as the UK, Spain, France, the US and China have shown growth up wards of 16 percent. The UK has been the fastest growing, with over 45 percent jump in capacity "week after week," says the report.
In Nigeria, five out of its nine commercial airlines restarted operations in early July.
The Indian aviation market, where the government has now increased the cap on capacity utilisation to 45 percent, is doing better than the global average. By June itself, the domestic market's capacity utilisation was higher than its international peers.
Have all airlines restarted operations?
Not really. Still, says the same report quoting OAG, about 140 airlines who had operated in January are yet to resume services. Many of them, may never.
Some of the big names that may have been permanently grounded include, LATAM, Air Mauritius, South African Airways and Flybe. In India, Air Deccan halted operations in April.
Then what are the tell tale signs one is talking about?
Airlines who have managed to survive the last few months, are beginning to spread their wings. Middle Eastern airlines, including Emirates, Eithad and Air Arabia, have begun services to and from India.
Emirates, which was recently in news for its mega layoff exercise, has continued to expand its services amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 9, it added seven more destinations, taking the total to 58. Before the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Dubai-based airline was flying to 157 destinations.
Similarly, Lufthansa and its group carriers have now made plans to soon start using half -380 aircraft- of their fleet. In June, the airline was operating 200 fewer planes. By November, the group, which also includes the Swiss and the Austrian airlines, will cover 90 percent of its short and medium haul destinations, and 70 percent of the long haul ones.
United Airlines, which has started repatriation flights from India, will add 25,000 more flights by August. Though this will still amount to about 40 percent of its 2019 schedule, the airline is clearly seeing an uptick in demand.
These airlines continue to advise fliers about the restrictions in flying, and point out that local regulations in each country.
Which countries are allowing tourists?
On July 15, Maldives will become the latest addition to the international tourist map. The island nation is opening up for international tourists.
Earlier in the month, European Union had opened up borders for travellers from 15 countries outside the continent. These included Thailand, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Rwanda and New Zealand.
Apart from the European nations, countries in the Caribbean islands and some in Africa, are also welcoming tourists from across borders.
Can Indians start traveling?
Alas, we need to wait. For instance in Europe, the Union has excluded the US, Brazil and India from the list. The three countries now top the world in COVID-19 tally.Sure, those working in Europe or North America can go back on the flights operated under Vande Bharat Mission flights. But for those looking to take a break from the virus menace, please stay put for some more time. That would be the healthier option too.