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Coronavirus scare: Airport loads at lowest in years, airlines struggle to find parking space

Pranav Mukul
coronavirus flights affected, flights affected coronavirus, coronavirus, coronavirus lockdown, coronavirus states lockdown, Business news, Indian Express

For Sunday, India’s largest domestic airline IndiGo said that it would operate only 60 per cent of its scheduled flights.

WITH MORE than a 1,000 flights getting cancelled throughout the country on Sunday on account of weak demand caused by Janata Curfew, airport loads in the country have fallen to its lowest levels in the past several years. According to information sourced from flight-tracking portal Flightradar24, at Delhi airport alone — the country’s largest — 255 departures were cancelled, 38 per cent of the day’s schedule. Similarly at Mumbai airport, 233 departures, or 53 per cent, were cancelled on Sunday.

With large-scale grounding of aircraft, airport operators are also running out of parking space. At Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, several aircraft have been parked at Runway 27 of the aerodrome for lack of enough parking bays available. For Sunday, India’s largest domestic airline IndiGo said that it would operate only 60 per cent of its scheduled flights. The airline operates around 1,400 flights daily on domestic sectors. Its rival budget airline GoAir, on the other hand, said it was cancelling all of its around 330 flights on Sunday.

Further, in terms of passenger loads, airport sources said over the past 20 days, international air passenger load at Delhi airport has fallen by 50 per cent, while that for domestic sectors has fallen by 15 per cent. Every month, Delhi airport handles around 61 lakh passengers, including domestic and international. On Sunday, however, Delhi airport sources said international arrivals saw an uptick, given that India has prohibited arrival of international passengers, including both foreign and Indian citizens, from Monday early morning.

The sudden increase in international arrivals tested the available infrastructure at Delhi airport, causing the authorities to respond to the surge in traffic. “Before the week long ban on international flights, there is a surge in numbers of passengers. While things are smooth at other airports, in Delhi the situation is crowded but orderly. We have increased facilities & number of doctors for mandatory secondary screening,” Minister of State for Civil Aviation (Independent Charge) Hardeep Singh Puri said in a series of tweets.

“It has been a difficult two days, but with 90 health counters operational for secondary screening of incoming passengers at Delhi Airport, things are back to normal,” he added later on Sunday.

Over the next one week though, an airline executive said, passenger loads on domestic flights may see a slight increase considering a blanket ban on all trains by the government. “This is contingent on the government not suspending domestic air travel across the country though,” the executive said.

Meanwhile, low-cost carrier SpiceJet has let go of about 20 of its pilots, who were serving their notice period, without completing the stipulated 12-month period. In a communication to these pilots, citing the impact of the pandemic on aviation industry, SpiceJet said that it has accepted the pilots’ resignation with a “reduced notice period”.

In a statement, a SpiceJet spokesperson said: “SpiceJet has decided to waive off the notice period of a few pilots (around 20 in number) who had resigned from the Company. This is not a retrenchment as they were under notice period”.