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Government may consider allowing flight operations in staggered manner post lockdown

NEW DELHI: The government may consider allowing flight operations in a staggered manner after the 21-day nationwide lockdown ends on April 14, officials said on Sunday.

Except Air India, all other airlines have been taking bookings for commercial passenger services from April 15.

Officials said the government may consider allowing operations of passenger flights from April 15 in a staggered manner, at the same time suggesting that flights may not be allowed to operate on all sectors.

Reacting to reports on likely resumption of flights, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri called them “mere speculation”.

He referred to a tweet by him on April 2 stating that a decision on resumption of flights after the end of the lockdown period remains to be taken.

India suspended domestic and international commercial passenger flight operations from midnight on March 24 for 21 days in sync with the nation-wide lockdown.

However, cargo flights, medical evacuation flights, offshore helicopter operations and flights permitted on special ground by the aviation regulator DGCA were allowed to operate during the period.

“News about resumption of passenger flights in a staggered manner from 15 April is mere speculation. The correct position is spelt out in my tweet of 2nd April 2020,” Puri tweeted on Sunday.

On April 2, he had tweeted: “The current lockdown on both domestic and international passenger flights is till April 15. A decision to restart the flights after this period remains to be taken. If required, we will have to assess the situation on a case by case basis.”

Asked at a press conference on April 2 about resumption of international flights, Puri had said: “Air India had first cancelled the flights to China, then the other carriers stopped flying.”

“So far as the lockdown is concerned, the lockdown is till April 15. And, we can start considering the resumption of flights on a case-by-case basis depending on where they are coming from after that,” he said.

When asked about the resumption of passenger flight services, Civil Aviation Secretary P S Kharola’s statement at the briefing indicated that the government direction is very clear that the lockdown is up to April 14.

“As far as post that (April 14) is concerned, it is all up to airlines. Airlines have to judge the situation and they can take the bookings,” he had said on April 2.

“In case the lockdown gets extended, then the same process (of cancellation) has to be followed, and if the lockdown is not extended, then the bookings will be honoured,” said the secretary.

Like many other countries, civil aviation sector has been hit hard in India too following restrictions of flight operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, Air Deccan became the latest casualty of the crisis as it announced an indefinite suspension of flight operations and asked all employees to go on sabbatical without pay.

As revenues have fallen significantly due to the coronavirus crisis, IndiGo has announced a pay cut of up to 25 per cent for its senior employees.

Another airline, Vistara, too has announced a compulsory leave without pay of up to three days for its senior employees.

SpiceJet has stated that its employees’ salaries would be reduced between 10 to 30 per cent while the Air India has announced a 10 per cent cut in allowances for every employee, except cabin crew, for the coming three months.

GoAir has cut salaries of its employees, laid off its expat pilots and introduced leave without pay for employees on a rotational basis.

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