The Indian government has allowed domestic flights to resume in a calibrated manner from May 25, after two months of grounding.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has issued a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) that has to be followed by airlines, airports and passengers for the resumption of flights.
To ensure affordability of air fares for passengers, the government has capped ticket prices for three months. The elderly, pregnant women and people with health issues have also been advised to avoid travel.
“The industry has been waiting for the systematic opening of domestic flights. Even though the capacity will be limited to begin with, it is a step in the right direction as many stranded people will be able to travel by air,” said Ankur Bhatia, executive director, Bird Group.
He added: “The government has given a detailed SOP which will be helpful in curtailing the spread of the virus. Fare cap might be challenging and impact the airline yields but these are extraordinary times and such measures are required.”
Kanika Tekriwal, CEO & founder of JetSetGo Aviation, said: “In the downtime, we were preparing ourselves to reopen our services by working on the guidelines prepared by the government to ensure the maximum safety of our guests. We are looking forward to the detailed plan of flying and reopening our bookings by the authorities.”
Industry players urged the government to also allow hotels to reopen to support tourist demand that will surface through the opening of flights.
“Most travellers would need to stay at hotels. Hotels on their end have used the lockdown period to prepare for reopening, putting into place measures such as social distancing,” said Bhatia.
However, a section of the travel trade was quick to add that it may take some time before domestic tourism starts picking up.
Arun Anand, managing director, Midtown Travels, said: “Domestic travel may slightly ease up, but travellers’ apprehension (to flying) has to go in order for demand to rise significantly.”