According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), India is expected to lose around 2.9 million jobs in the aviation(1) sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Passenger traffic has declined to 47 percent and the revenue has fallen to US$11.221 billion compared to the 2019 financial year. It is a known fact that every airline job assists another 24 jobs in the travel and tourism sector. Civil Aviation ministry has geared up to resume the domestic flight operation within a week. Air travel will change with the new norm of SOP (Standard Operating Procedure).
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
Government officials, top bureaucrats, prominent doctors, airline officials, and DGCA officials have formulated a standard operating procedure (SOP) for passengers and flight members.(2)There will be a social distancing norm in check-in counter queues, and waiting for lounges. You can’t ask for any kind of service during the flight. Before boarding, you should follow the thermal screening procedures, wearing masks and gloves. The committee is collaborating with airlines to keep vacant the middle seat. It means a 186-seater Airbus A320 will have only 106 seats for ticket booking. Top airline experts have conveyed their thoughts that keeping the middle seat won’t fulfill the purpose of mandatory 6 feet distance between two co-passengers as it will provide only 2 feet distance. Meanwhile, airlines have stressed upon wearing protective suits and a negative certificate from the lab for a safe and secure COVID-free journey. However, government officials are considering their views and it may happen in the near future.
Government assistance to the aviation industry
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the fourth tranche of the fiscal stimulus package. However, she hasn’t mentioned any bailout package for the airline industry. But she emphasized on to use the free airspace that can benefit the aviation industry ₹1,000 crores per year.(3)The finance minister has proposed to auction six more airports to private players in the third round. In the first and second rounds, the government earned the revenue of ₹13,000 crore investment done by the private players. The government is also emulating the plan to provide a rationalized tax regime for aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO). However, FICCI has shown disinterest over the government reforms in the aviation industry. It has sought a bailout package from the finance ministry that can support by cash-flow, interest-free soft loans, and a two years’ tax holiday. But the Indian government is not in a condition to provide a bailout package for the aviation industry.
As other industries are sending their employees for layoffs, the aviation industry has commenced its staff personnel to go for unpaid leave without cutting the jobs. Most of the Indian airlines have not created a contingency fund for emergency purpose or economic turmoil. This led toa severe revenue loss to the Indian airline industry. The assistance of the Indian government is insufficient as compared to other countries. The US has announced a $71 billion bailout package. (4) Finnair has reimbursed the $650 million loan guarantee, Norway has released the $450 million and Sweden has decided to release $500 million. In the wake of other nation bailout package, the Indian aviation industry has produced a grim picture and they are hoping to normalize the air travel to regain their revenues.