Speaking exclusively with Republic Media Network's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami on Thursday, May 21, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri explained the rationale for the recommencement of domestic flight operations from May 25. According to Puri, the country was reaching a balance between life and livelihood. He contended that the lockdown had to be relaxed at some stage as India had succeeded in controlling the number of COVID-19 infections. Currently., there are 1,12,359 confirmed novel coronavirus cases in India out of which 45,300 patients have been discharged while 3,435 casualties have been reported.
Hardeep Singh Puri commented, "In the interest of full disclosure, when we decided to go in for an effective and complete lockdown, this is a decision the PM took. We had already scaled down. We had cancelled flights from China very early- we were the first country to do that. We were very early to screen passengers. We screened 15 lakh passengers. So when we went in for the lockdown, we knew that lockdown is not something which will have permanence. At some stage, you have to lift the lockdown. So, about 10 to 15 days ago, we were clear that having succeeded in controlling the overall number of infections by confining the mortality rate to just about 3% out of 85% are those people who had pre-existing conditions, we realised that we were reaching the balance between life and livelihood. I am on record saying a week ago that our airports and airlines are ready to resume operations whenever we get a green signal."
He added, "Having said that, I am also equally conscious of the fact that this is not a recommencement of an operation which is usual or normal. You had no revenue stream for two months for the airlines. Airports have been under severe economic stress. It is an extraordinary situation and we have to deal with it. That is what explains- for a period of three months, we have introduced price control in terms of a floor price and a ceiling price with 40% of the seats having to be sold between the floor price and the median price."
Puri also elaborated on the changes to the passenger experience of flying for the next three months. First, he opined that the people would tend to travel by air only if there is a pressing need. Furthermore, he mentioned that frills associated with flights such as in-flight meal, newspapers etc. shall be absent.
"It is going to be a new experience. First of all, one can only hazard the amount of demand there is going to be about Civil Aviation operations. I personally believe that the demand is quite high. But people will travel only if they really have to. And some of the frills which you associate with travel will be absent for some time. For instance, social distancing at the airports, no queues at the check-in point, travelling with only one bag, wearing masks, cabin crew wearing protective gears, no newspapers or magazines inside an aircraft, certainly no food except water bottles at the point of entry, some water bottles in the seats- these will be some of the changes," Puri said on the flying experience of the passengers.