After railway services , domestic flights are expected to resume soon with the Civil Aviation Ministry in the process of taking a final call on when and how such flights commence.
A top Central government source told The Hindu that a nod from the Union government to resume flights had to be in sync with willingness of the States to let flights operate.
The source pointed to the comments made by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on Monday that the Centre not allow air services in the country till May 31.
“Air services can even begin before May 18. Operating protocols are in place. But a political decision on this has to be taken after keeping the view of Chief Ministers in mind,” the source added.
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Apparently, the Centre is ready to go ahead with allowing airlines to fill the middle seat as operators have said time and again that it doesn’t make commercial sense to fly with the middle seat vacant.
Another source attached to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) told the The Hindu on Monday that delineation of metros such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Bengaluru, and Chennai, apart from Pune, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad as red zones was an issue in resuming flight operations.
“The Centre is prepared to allow airlines to resume domestic flights to cities where the COVID-19 situation is not risky. Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode in the State [Kerala] are busy airports based on passenger traffic and aircraft movement. Except Kochi, the other two airports under the AAI may not attract the necessary load factor,” he pointed out.
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“Airports have readied to resume operation of domestic flights. Already arrangements are in place following the evacuation of stranded Indians from abroad, especially from Gulf nations from May 7,” he said.
With the three-phase lockdown expected to end on May 17, the Director General of Civil Aviation has hinted to begin the operation of domestic passenger flights also in a graded manner. But airline operators have been asked not to start booking of tickets even as demands soar from people stranded in various cities.
However, it has mandated stringent security measures to resume air traffic, including check-in to airports and social distancing inside the aircraft.
As such international flight operations will take longer as several nations have imposed travel restrictions and banned entry of expatriates and foreign nationals. Demands from the Indian diaspora in possession of Overseas Citizenship of India cards to fly out of the country have been flooding the Ministry since the Centre launched the Vande Bharat Mission to bring the stranded Indians last week.
(With inputs from Delhi Bureau)