After almost two months, India is all set to resume domestic flights starting May 25.
Clearly, the move is in line with the thinking that everything cannot be kept hostage to Covid-19 and certain activities will need to be reopened and resumed.
Resuming domestic flights will be one of the measures that will help the economy get back on track. But the government has its task cut out when it comes to ensuring that this resumption of services is done in a manner where it doesn’t lead to further escalation in Covid-19 cases.
Social distancing and a good sanitization regime at airport terminals is something that will have to be ensured on priority.
It remains to be seen whether the government mandates keeping aircraft seats vacant to ensure social distancing during flights. But given the seriousness of the matter, it may not come as a surprise if carriers are asked to fly with some vacant seats. That, of course, can only be a short-term measure given the losses it may bring to airlines.
With cash-strapped airlines getting back to business, there is a possibility of inflated fares being charged from passengers. The government will have to step in here and ensure that this resumption of air services doesn’t become a ground for airlines to financially bleed passengers.
In the long run, the government will need to immediately expand its existing infrastructure in terms of terminal buildings and hangars in the airport which will enable the people to practice social distancing and at the same increase the frequency of social distancing.
The government may also consider offering some subsidies to the airlines in the short term to enable them to limp back to normalcy.