COVID: Airlines, excluding IndiGo, demand financial support from govt

As the second wave of COVID infections hit the aviation sector hard, airlines have asked the government to reduce capacity allowed from 80% of pre-COVID to 60% and have also sought financial assistance from the government. Market leader IndiGo, however, did not seek any kind of financial assistance from the government.

Sources in the airline said that these requests were made to the aviation ministry in a meeting held with the aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola on Monday.

“No airline was in favour of increasing the capacity limit from 80% to 100%. Some airlines also requested the government to strictly implement the lower limit of fares allowed by airlines,” said an executive, who did not want to be identified.

The executive added that the government has not provided any financial support to the airline industry. “The situation is worse this time, as we were trying to recover from the impact and would require financial support,” said the executive.

While financial support was sought by an airline, IndiGo did not seek any bailout package. “IndiGo has not asked for any bailout package from the government,” a second executive in the know told ET.

A government official, however, told ET that a financial bailout package for the airline sector looks highly unlikely.

The government had allowed Indian airlines to operate up to 80% of the pre-COVID capacity and was mulling further increasing it with the number of passengers reaching close to 80% of pre-COVID in February. With the second wave, things have gone back to square one and total domestic passengers declined to as low as 201,000 on Monday, which is a decline of 35,000 passengers in a day. Airline had reached the levels of ferrying over 300,000 passengers in a day.

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As cases have started to rise again, various states and union territories including Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Odisha, Gujarat and Rajasthan have mandated Covid-negative tests for passengers. States like Assam, Bihar and Punjab are conducting random checks on arriving passengers. Some states have also announced night curfew and weekend lockdowns, leading to passengers cancelling their trips.

Airlines are reporting 20-50% decline in flight bookings and air travel amid a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases, ET reported on Tuesday.

The second wave of the infection has come at a time when domestic airlines had started to see a rise in demand after the slump following the outbreak of the pandemic last year with many Indians planning their summer vacations to various tourism destinations within the country.

While airlines are seeing a dip in demand, a survey by localCircles, a community social media platform, showed that 25% citizens with booked summer travel may undertake their travel and pose a major risk to India’s already massive second Covid-19 surge.



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