Int’l flights to de­pend on de­mand: Puri

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTSPOTLIGH­T - Anisha Dutta letters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NEW DELHI: A de­ci­sion on the re­sump­tion of in­ter­na­tional pas­sen­ger flights will de­pend on de­mand and other coun­tries be­ing open to re­ceiv­ing flights amid the Covid-19 pan­demic, civil avi­a­tion min­is­ter Hardeep Singh Puri said on Saturday, and over­seas op­er­a­tions to North Amer­ica where de­mand is higher may be the first to restart, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior of­fi­cial.

At the same time, Puri was hope­ful that domestic flights would reach full ca­pac­ity by the end of the year.

“Any sug­ges­tion that in­ter­na­tional air traf­fic has opened up in other coun­tries and we are the only ones not to open up needs a re­al­ity check. The ex­act time we re­sume in­ter­na­tional flights de­pends on other coun­tries be­ing open to re­ceive flights,” Puri said at a press con­fer­ence on Saturday.

In­dia has sus­pended in­ter­na­tional pas­sen­ger flights since March 22 in a bid to con­tain the spread of Covid-19.

In­ter­na­tional flight move­ment in coun­tries such as the United States, United King­dom, Aus­tralia, Ger­many, China, Sin­ga­pore and the United Arab Emi­rates now varies be­tween 3% and 18% of their ear­lier flight ca­pac­ity, Puri said.The min­is­ter said that in­ter­na­tional flight op­er­a­tions de­pend on airspaces be­ing open and acceptance by des­ti­na­tions.

“Many coun­tries de­cided that they were not go­ing to al­low na­tion­als from other coun­tries ex­cept their own. We also went with the same po­si­tion,” Puri said.

He added that en­try to the US, UK, France, China, UAE and Sin­ga­pore was con­di­tional. “We can­not have nor­mal civil avi­a­tion op­er­a­tions un­der such con­di­tions. We are left with no op­tion but to con­tinue with evac­u­a­tion and repa­tri­a­tion flights un­der con­trolled con­di­tions. We are con­stantly try­ing to ex­pand both domestic and Vande Bharat flights {to bring back In­di­ans stranded abroad} and even­tu­ally re­sum­ing flights to pre-Covid op­er­a­tional ca­pac­i­ties,” he added.

The min­is­ter added that nearly 275,000 stranded In­di­ans have been brought back so far, adding that 109,000 In­di­ans were brought back via Air In­dia alone. Dur­ing Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the Vande Bharat mis­sion, pri­vate domestic air­lines have been man­dated to op­er­ate 750 in­ter­na­tional flights along with 300 Air In­dia flights that will be added in the com­ing days, Puri said.

In­dia may re­sume in­ter­na­tional flights on routes with rel­a­tively higher de­mand first, other of­fi­cials said.

“Both ends have to be ready and there has to be traf­fic if in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tions are to be­gin. There is a sig­nif­i­cant amount of traf­fic be­tween In­dia and the North Amer­i­can con­ti­nent. We may think of open­ing flights on a case-to-case ba­sis,” civil avi­a­tion sec­re­tary Pradeep Singh Kharola said.

Puri said the gov­ern­ment was ready to ex­pand the ca­pac­ity on domestic routes from 33% (at present) to 45% de­pend­ing on the states.

“At present we have al­lowed only 33% flights to op­er­ate. Flights are not op­er­at­ing with full ca­pac­ity even now. We will open more routes when there is more de­mand. We are ready to take it to up to even 40-45% ca­pac­ity,” Puri added.

The lim­its on air­fares im­posed on domestic flights may also be ex­tended be­yond Au­gust 24, of­fi­cials said.

“De­pend­ing on how the sit­u­a­tion turns out, the fare band may have to ad­justed be­yond that (Au­gust 24) also. But right now, it is only for three months,” Kharola said.

The Cen­tre capped air­fares of domestic flights that re­sumed from May 25 with fixed lower and up­per lim­its.

THE MIN­IS­TER SAID THAT IN­TER­NA­TIONAL FLIGHT OP­ER­A­TIONS ALSO DE­PEND ON AIRSPACES BE­ING OPEN AND ACCEPTANCE BY DES­TI­NA­TIONS

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