After weeks of discussions, govt clears air travel
On Wednesday, the government announced the resumption of limited flight services, starting Monday, May 25.Updated: May 21, 2020 02:59 IST
On May 11, Indian Railways announced it would run special trains to 15 destinations from Delhi, and back. By then, the union government had already started discussing the resumption of flight services, top government officials involved in the process said on condition of anonymity.
On Wednesday, the government announced the resumption of limited flight services, starting Monday, May 25.
As a first step, the officials said, the ministry of home affairs and health started initial discussions with the civil aviation ministry, the Airport Authority of India (AAI) and airlines in the last week of April. The brief was that only limited flights should be considered.
“But as complex negotiations involving private airlines took a long time, the standard operating procedure could not be finalized before the union government announced Lockdown 4.0 on May 17,” said one of the officials cited in the first instance.
Running the special trains for workers or even the trains to and from Delhi was relatively easier as only government agencies, the union government and the states were involved, a second official said.
“The private airlines were keen to resume services as they were incurring heavy losses, but at the same time , they were aware that they had to balance safety and health concerns. We too, had to factor in the business aspect; many other sectors were slowly being opened up to restart operations,” said the first official.
The airlines sent dozens of queries pertaining, at time, to even minute details such as what are the safety measures to be adopted for different types passengers and the pilots and air hostesses. The airport authority of India was entrusted to come up with a plan on how social distancing and other health norms could be ensured in an airport.
The Prime Minister’s Office, a third official said, was clear that only select routes would be opened and that planes would not fly to capacity . This person added that the norms that the airlines and airports will have to follow have factored in inputs from the home and heath ministries.
According to the officials, discussions with the states started soon after; many were open to the idea, although two large states were sceptical .
“Even as aviation is completely managed by the union government, states too, have an important role to play. And in this situation of pandemic, the top brass of the Centre would be reluctant to open new transport facilities without taking the states on board,” said the third official.
On Wednesday, aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted: “Domestic civil aviation operations will recommence in a calibrated manner from Monday 25th May 2020. All airports and air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from 25th May. SOPs for passenger movement are also being separately issued by civil aviation ministry.”