Domestic flights to resume

Domestic air travel will resume in India on Monday after a two-month shutdown imposed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said: "Domestic civil aviation operations will recommence in a calibrated manner from 25th May. All airports & air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations."

The minister added that the standard operating procedures for passenger movement will be issued soon.

The government halted all domestic flights - which ferried 144 million passengers as well as cargo across the vast country last year - on March 25, days after suspending international flights.

No indication was given when international travel would resume.

The order to ban local flights grounded 650 planes in the country, prompting industry analysts at CAPA Centre for Aviation to speculate that struggling airlines would have to sell shares to survive. Airlines around the world have struggled to remain in business, with some shutting down, as travel restrictions to contain the spread of the virus dried cash flows.

However, India's decision to resume domestic flights came as a bolt from the blue for most of the country's aviation companies, reported Bloomberg.

Most airlines had suspended ticket sales at least until June 1 and were staring at a longer stint on the ground. The short notice makes it harder for them to prepare for operations, deploy staff, arrange for protective gear and take other safety measures against Covid-19.

Many airline executives told IANS that they will now swiftly upload new ticket bookings itineraries online representing the new flight schedules from May 25 onwards.

However, they can do so only after the new route allocations have been issued and the standard operating procedures announced.

A limited number of interstate trains - on a network which normally carries over 20 million passengers a day - resumed service a week ago.

An additional 200 passenger services - 100 pairs of trains operating to and from major and some smaller cities - will resume from June 1, Indian Railways said on Wednesday.

The announcement comes the same day as the country of 1.3 billion people reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus infections, with 5,611 new cases recorded in 24 hours. It took the total to 106,750, with financial capital Mumbai the worst-hit city, according to government figures.

More than 3,300 people have died - though unofficial estimates are higher - and Mumbai accounts for almost a quarter of the fatalities.

Other major cities such as New Delhi and Ahmedabad are also badly affected.

AFP, Indo-Asian News Service

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