By A Special Correspondent
First publised on 2020-05-24 18:30:46
While the Centre has taken the welcome decision of opening up the aviation sector in a calibrated manner from Monday, May 25, some states, Maharashtra in particular, have expressed their inability to allow the resumption of flights to and from airports in their states citing the rising number of Covid-19 cases. West Bengal has asked for operations to resume from May 30 in view of the destruction caused by Cyclone Amphan. These are valid reasons and the Centre must ask the airlines to plan routes keeping the request of the states in mind.
Although the aviation sector has suffered huge losses due to the two-month forced closure due to the lockdown, any haste in resuming flights in areas where the administration is not ready to deal with the influx of potential carriers of the coronavirus is fraught with danger. With the travel protocol issued by the Centre prescribing for home quarantine for asymptomatic passengers, it will be difficult to keep tabs on them now that the Aarogya Setu app has been made optional for air travel. Hence it will be wise for the airlines to avoid landing at Mumbai, Pune and other destinations in Maharashtra and other states that are asking for time, for now.
One knows that the Delhi-Mumbai and Mumbai-Bengaluru routes are very lucrative and productive for the airlines but the situation arising out of the rising Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra has to be kept in mind. Since the operations are being started in a calibrated manner, the airlines can, for now, operate more flights on other routes as per demand. They can then scale up the operations once Maharashtra allows flights in its state. The airlines will have to take all the necessary precautions and follow the health protocol to ensure that flying remains a safe option. Like in most other things, there will be a "new" normal in aviation too and passengers will also have to follow it.
The other issue is about the price band fixed by the government. While government intervention in pricing is always to be resisted, one feels that since the measure has been introduced for only the next three months, the airlines have nothing to fear. These are troubling times and they call for some harsh decisions. In any case, one feels that with the scare of Covid-19 still too strong, there will not be an immediate rush for flight tickets apart from people going back home from where they had got stranded or people with extreme urgency. This fact is reflected in the easy availability of tickets at reasonable prices in most sectors after bookings resumed. Travel for leisure or other non-essential reasons will take some time to pick up. By that time, price control will be off and market pricing will be back in force.