India will allow resumption of domestic passenger flight operations in a calibrated manner, exactly two months after suspending them under the national lockdown norms.
In a tweet, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday said: "Domestic civil aviation operations will recommence in a calibrated manner from Monday, 25th May 2020."
"All airports & air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from 25th May," he said.
Furthermore, the minister said the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the passenger movement would be issued soon.
The development comes a day after Puri had said that it is not only up to the Central government to decide on the resumption of domestic flights, as states will also have to be ready to allow civil aviation operations.
Ever since the imposition of the nationwide lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the country on March 25, passenger air services were suspended for both scheduled domestic and international flights.
"It is not up to @MoCA_GoI or centre alone to decide on resuming domestic flights. In the spirit of cooperative federalism, the govt of states where these flights will take off & land should be ready to allow civil aviation operations," Puri had tweeted on Tuesday.
On Sunday, after the Ministry of Home Affairs' decision to extend the lockdown till May 31, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had said that it will suitably inform the airlines about flights resumption in due course.
In its guidelines for lockdown 4.0, the MHA had said that all domestic and international air travel of passengers will be prohibited, except for domestic medical services, domestic air ambulance and for security purposes.
IANS on Tuesday reported that Covid-19 battered airline industry has started to accept ticket bookings for the travel period starting June 1.
When contacted on Wednesday, many airline executives said they will now swiftly load new ticket bookings itineraries representing the new schedule from May 25 onward on online platforms.
However, this can only happen after the issuance of new route allocation and other SoP norms.
Besides immediate financial relief, the move allows the airlines to keep their staff and aircraft ready for the re-start of operations.
At present, some players have made cargo operations their main revenue stream. Still, fixed cost, especially the employee compensation component alone, has dented their financial positions and stock prices.
Nevertheless, the latest announcement should bring some stability to the companies business continuity plans.
A second airline executive contacted by IANS said that not all sectors are likely to be offered under the new bookings itinerary.
"This resumption will go a long way in lifting the overall economic sentiment in the country," said Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, SpiceJet.
"While the SOP for resumption of operations and details of flights to be operated is still awaited, we are sure that this much awaited move will help a large number of passengers by providing them access to the safest and quickest means of transport."
Airline major IndiGo in a statement said: "We are fully prepared with safety measures w.r.t. COVID-19 across all our passenger and CarGo interfaces during their journey with us."
"We will share further details and guidelines for passengers, in line with the advisory from the authorities over the next few days."
According to Dhruv Shringi, Co-Founder and CEO, Yatra.com: "While we anticipate change in customer demand and confidence, but are also hopeful that this move will give the much needed economic stimulus to the tourism sector and travel agents."
On his part, Aloke Bajpai, CEO and Co-founder, ixigo said: "It's a positive step much awaited by airlines and the OTAs - we look forward to the detailed SOPs and guidelines."
"The industry now needs to collaborate and focus on advertising all the confidence building measures that will reassure travelers to get back on a plane. Reopening domestic flights will give a big boost to our economy and kickst rt the recovery of the travel industry which was the most affected during the lockdown."
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