Flights will be at pre-Covid levels by Diwali – Aviation Minister

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Flights across India will return to pre-Covid levels by Diwali, said aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri, adding that restarting economic activity was critical as extending the lockdown could be “more devastating than Covid” for the country.

“By Diwali (in November), we will have all our 650 aircraft operated by Indian carriers (flying),” Puri said in an interview. “This may sound optimistic but what else we are going to do?”

He said the country’s recovery rate from Covid-19 was higher than those of other nations.

“We need to revive economic activity in the country and extending the lockdown could be more devastating than Covid for the country,” the minister said.

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He said Indian aviation will recover quickly as the country has a huge captive market and people will feel the need to start flying again. Domestic flights restarted in a limited fashion on May 25 after two months. The sector is operating at 20% of pre-Covid capacity, which was 2,700 daily flights with 650 planes.

“We will come out of the phase on top because we have a captive market unlike many other countries, which are aviation hubs,” he said. “This Covid situation will change the paradigm… Our greatest strength is we have our own people to fly, own travel demand and routes.”

Revival of hospitality industry will depend on aviation coming back. “How can hotels function without flights?” he said.

‘AI to Become More Attractive’

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On restarting flights, the central government had to face some resistance from states as they are struggling to curb disease numbers.

“I fully understand their concerns, when they have to balance their international health requirements and opening up their economy,” said Puri.

Karnataka said late on Thursday that it has asked for a reduction in flights from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan on account of the rising Covid-19 infections in those states.

Puri said that Air India divestment’s programme may have been delayed further but he expects the national carrier to become more attractive for suitors.

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“We have only delayed the process by two months,” he said. “I think AI divestment will become a more attractive proposition after this because they have access and routes.”

(Source: ET Now Not edited by travelobiz staff)


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