By Diwali, domestic air operations could be restored: Hardeep Puri
Come Diwali (November 14), much of India's domestic civil air traffic will be restored to original numbers, said Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday. Speaking to Indian Express, he said the number of domestic passengers had reached 98,800 yesterday, which was about 33% of the pre-COVID numbers. The number of passengers is being increased by 5,000 every week, he added.
Centre looking at opening up bigger cities
Currently, the Mumbai airport operates just 100 flights per day. In Kolkata, flights from Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Pune, and Nagpur are restricted till August 31. But this could change soon, opined Puri. He said the government plans to open up Mumbai more after the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. Operations in Kolkata and Bengaluru will also become "less sporadic," he said.
Ministry's aim is to bring back normalcy
Talking about the steps taken to restore normalcy, Puri reminded a 14-day quarantine period was introduced. And now, he said, another rule has been introduced. Passengers who can furnish report of an RT-PCR test done in the last 96 hours are allowed to pass through the green channel. "We are opening up these things so that we move towards normalcy," he added.
Aviation sector in India was badly affected by COVID-19
Further, Puri said that when flight operations resumed on May 25, airlines were allowed to operate on only 35% of their capacity. Now, the cap has been increased to 45%. To note, the airline industry is struggling to cope up with the losses caused due to the pandemic. The consultancy firm CAPA pegged losses for the current financial year to a staggering $4-4.5 billion.
Only resuming operations can save the airlines: Puri
Saying that some airlines were in financial strain even before coronavirus, Puri added, "My own firmly held view is that the saving of airlines will come by as quickly as possible resuming operations. We have taken many meetings, we are navigating our way forward."
India has 'air bubbles' with 18 countries
Puri categorically stated that the re-opening of international flights will depend on how the disease progresses, adding that India has air bubbles with 18 countries that include the US, UK, and France. Air bubble flights are temporary arrangements between two countries when normal international flights are suspended. This helped India bring back over 11.70 lakh people since May under the Vande Bharat Mission.