India to suspend domestic flights, seeks to lock down coronavirus spread

To strengthen the nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus, India has banned air travel from Wednesday. The ban will last until midnight on March 31. This decision is the latest in a series of steps, including the ban on bus and train travel, was taken by the government.

It is the first time that India has stopped air transport altogether. The United States did so after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the corona virus a pandemic. The government used a clause in the 1934 Aircraft Act to suspend air travel.

“The operations of the national scheduled commercial airlines will cease at midnight 11:59 p.m. on March 24. Airlines must plan their operations in order to land at their destination before 11:59 p.m. on March 24 (sic), “said a notification from the directorate general of civil aviation to airlines.

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Sources familiar with the development said there was a lot of deliberation between different branches of government on this.

“The airlines themselves were cutting flights. So we continued to wait. But at the end of the day, a decision was made to ban it because the spread was increasing, “said a government official.

A worker sprays disinfectant inside the cabin of a Lion Air airliner as a precaution against the new coronavirus, at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Indonesia

The decision was ultimately made at the level of the Prime Minister’s Office and the multi-ministerial team, which includes officials from the ministries of health, civil aviation and home.

“The government clearly sees increased risks from the COVID-19 virus and is determined to take unprecedented steps to slow its spread. It is the right decision under the current circumstances.

For the airlines, this suspension coincides with what can only be described as a destruction of demand in recent days, “said Kapil Kaul, president and CEO of CAPA, who is an aviation consultant.

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Kaul said the disruption that aviation is experiencing will leave an impact well beyond 2020-2021, unless the government supports it. The government is planning a comprehensive rescue plan for the aviation sector. Government sources forming part of the rescue package said the rescue package would have several aspects to support the reduction of airline cash flows.

The main measures will be to extend a two-month fuel credit to petroleum marketing companies, waive landing fees, parking fees and a reduced-rate loan, and exempt all taxes on kerosene such as import duties. excise, value added tax. At the same time, the government will also ask banks to offer subsidized loans to airlines at an interest rate of 1 or 1.5% from banks based in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT).

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