India asks international airlines to waive cancellation fees due to covid-19 outbreak
India’s aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), on Friday asked international airlines operating to and from India to waive cancellation and rescheduling charges in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.Private Indian airports, meanwhile, sought to levy a surcharge on airline fares to cover losses stemming from the outbreak.
“In view of the unfolding severe impact of Covid- 19, the aviation Industry is facing serious challenges. Flights are being curtailed, cancelled and disrupted almost on a daily basis. Resultantly, the passengers are also facing the brunt,” a circular issued by the DGCA said.
“Their travel plans are also getting hit and disturbed. In the current scenario, it would be appropriate if airlines support their passengers in this tough time by waiving off cancellation/ reschedule charges or by providing other incentive. In light of the hardship faced by passengers, airlines may like to consider and take an appropriate call, accordingly,” the circular said.
The Association of Private Airport Operators (APAO), in a letter written on Friday to civil aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola, sought a relief package from the government to stem losses caused to the aviation sector by a decline in airline bookings and aircraft occupancy.
“To address the growing severity of this issue and ensure sustainability of operations for airport operators, we propose; defining a close cooperation mechanism between airport operators and policy stakeholders to identify various options to tackle the crisis, allowing levying of a nominal passenger facilitation charge as part of airline fares to cover increased operating expenses being incurred by the operators, and provisioning of an airport operator alleviation package by Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) to facilitate the growing operational expenses, released in the next control period of applicable airport operators,” the letter read.
The government on Wednesday suspended almost all visas to India, as Covid-19 cases in the country sharply spiked and the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic.
Fresh bookings and occupancy in domestic flights have dropped by 15-20% in the wake of the outbreak.
A total of 16 foreign airlines have cancelled 492 international flights to India so far due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Puri informed Parliament on Thursday. Domestic carriers have also taken a hit, as 93 flights have been cancelled per week by Vistara, SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir.
According to estimates by ACI World, an organisation that represents the world’s airports, the Asia-Pacific is suffering the maximum impact of the coronavirus, with passenger traffic down by 24% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to what had been forecast for the period.
“Against this gloomy background of sharp declines in traffic and passenger throughput, airports’ aeronautical revenues and non-aeronautical revenues are rendering similar declines. The ACI World Airport Traffic Forecasts 2019-2040 projects revenue loss owing to Covid-19 to the tunes of US $3 billion,” the letter said.
India’s travel and tourism industry is staring at a loss of around Rs 8,500 crore, according to the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), which has appealed to the government to review the travel ban after 10 days, waive the Goods and Services Tax on the sector for one month or reduce the rate for the next financial year.
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