Domestic and international flight operations in India will resume once the government is confident that the novel coronavirus has been contained and poses no danger to the flyers, aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri has said.
"These restrictions will be lifted once we are fully confident that the spread of the virus has been controlled and it poses no danger to fellow Indians. I thank everyone for their cooperation and help in these testing times. Together we shall overcome and emerge stronger," Puri tweeted.
India imposed a 21-day nationwide lockdown from March 25, but so far there is no clarity whether the lockdown will be lifted on April 14. Domestic flights have been suspended since March 25 and international passenger operations too have been banned since March 23.
"My heart goes out to people who are facing problems due to restrictions put in place on domestic and international flights, pursuant to the situation arising out of the timely announcement of a nationwide lockdown," Puri said in the tweet.
The situation has stranded many Indians across the world and hundreds of citizens in the country are also in a difficult situation without any mode of transport to travel to their respective hometowns. Indian Railways has also stopped services while state borders have been sealed to dissuade inter-state road travel.
"My wife and kids are at my hometown in Ahmedabad,” an Ahmedabad-based engineer said. “I had come to Delhi for a work assignment and now I am stuck here. I am waiting desperately for the flights to resume so that I can get back with my family,” he added.
And there are instances of personal tragedies as well.
"My friend's father passed away on Friday. The family had to conduct the last rites in her absence as she couldn't come. She is alone so she cannot even drive from Mumbai to Delhi. We don't know what to do. We can only wait for the flights to resume," a Delhi-based graphic designer said.
Over 650 aircraft are grounded across the country, leading to an unprecedented crisis for the airlines, passengers, and airports. It remains to be seen how the industry will be reshaped by the event.
It is important to note that just ahead of lockdown commencement, aviation regulator the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had asked airlines, airports and ground handling agencies to ensure that passengers maintain a 1-metre distance between them in the waiting areas, lounges, check-in counters, boarding areas and in the aircraft as well.
Airlines were also asked to ensure that there is a 1-metre gap between passengers in the flight as well and that meant keeping the seat adjacent to a passenger empty. This translated into the aircraft seating capacity shrinking by 33 percent. It is expected that similar protocol will be put into place once the flights resume.
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