Nil demand for long-haul travel might impact India’s decision on international flight operations

International flight operations

Union Civil Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri had recently shared that the civil aviation ministry was confident about reaching to a conclusion regarding the resumption of international flight operations by next month (July) after taking into confidence all stakeholders and travellers.

The decision to resume international flights was not as easy as it involved consulting all the states in the country and the international agencies, the Centre said.

“We are trying to make sure that the government of all states is prepared first for international flights. Being a minister, I received many requests, suggestions and demands from the flyers to resume international flight operations, but this might be possible once the whole ecosystem is ready for international service.”

Hardeep Singh Puri, Union Civil Aviation minister

“We are operating many flights to abroad under Vande Bharat mission to bring back stranded Indians amid COVID-19 situations, but we are operating empty aircraft from India to Gulf country because UAE has banned the entry of the many nationals including India into the country,” Puri added.

However, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had stated that the demand for long-haul travel remains close to zero even as short-haul flying returns.

It was concerned over forward bookings for long haul travel being almost non-existent, and if anything, the public has started becoming more pessimistic about their prospects for travel.

IATA said that “current bookings for 1-7 November show that tickets have been sold to only 5 per cent of the 2019 number of passengers”.

“The re-start is anything but a normal situation for airline planning or passenger demand,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “Forward bookings into the autumn period are down 82% on normal levels”.

IATA shared that public sentiment has seen “a significant shift from April 2020 when 61 per cent said that they would return to travel within a few months of the pandemic subsiding and 21 per cent responded that they would wait about six months.”

The airline industry body is calling for governments to continue waiving rules on flight slots to allow airlines maximum flexibility in booking their future schedules.

The reason, according to IATA, is that with little or no visibility of future demand, airlines should not be forced to renounce slots, since this would mean many routes would be lost and perhaps not return.

 “We are counting on governments to implement the recommendations quickly, because the world wants to travel again and needs airlines to play a key role in the economic recovery. And we must do this with global harmonization and mutual recognition of efforts to earn the confidence of travelers and air transport workers.”

~Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO

India had resumed operations of domestic flights after two months of lockdown from March 25.

India has banned all scheduled international flights from March 25 to stop the spread of the COVID-19 in the country.

When asked about the safety aspect while travelling in flight, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said, “Air travel is more reliable with respect to travelling by bus and train.”

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