Due to drastic growth of coronavirus in many countries and in India lately, many efforts are being made to keep the spread under control. The pandemic has resulted in more than 4,000 deaths worldwide. Due to corona outbreak, aviation sector is affected highly. As more and more cases of the novel coronavirus get reported in India, the number of ticket cancellations are going up.
Airlines have been struggling to fill plane seats for flights to Asia, with fears over the coronavirus stopping people from traveling. It is leading to a drop in fares even on routes that generally see high traffic but unable to find passengers. As coronavirus continues to spread, some governments have restricted travel while, elsewhere, individual travellers have been taking their own precautions.
More than 490 flights operated by foreign carriers to and from India have been cancelled for varying periods of time while the count of weekly flights cancelled by domestic airlines is more than 90, as per official data. Ticket prices have dropped primarily on account of lesser people travelling even as experts advise to avoid non-essential travel. Many travel agents have said that people are increasingly opting for cancellations or not willing to book the flight tickets on account of coronavirus outbreak.
Ticket Rates Dropped on Busy Routes also
In India, many flights on the various routes are facing low demand. According to a report in Times of India(TOI), last minute fares on Mumbai-Delhi for a return flight have dropped to as low as Rs 5,000 for the flights on this route. One of the travel agents has stated that Mumbai-Delhi flights are always in high demand even in off-season and even last minute fares don't drop so low as they dropped now.
One of the report states that fares from Mumbai to Kochi also dropped to Rs 5,000 for a return booking. Earlier the same fare earlier used to be somewhere around Rs 6,000-7,000 for a one way booking as quoted by an agent. The number of cancelled flights on international routes is expected to rise as India has also suspended all visas, except a few categories such as diplomatic and employment, till April 15 as part of efforts to contain spreading of coronavirus infections.
Along with domestic flights, many International airlines are also facing issue of low demand. Due to this low demand, there is a big impact on the tourism industry as people prefer to avoid crowded places for the fear of coming in contact with someone who is infected. Some carriers are also offering lower fares from major U.S. hubs such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston, etc. to various major cities in Japan, Thailand, Singapore, and South Korea to deal with low demand.
Some Asian carriers including Cathay Pacific, China Southern, China Eastern and Xiamen Air have offered reduced prices for flights to Asian capitals such as Tokyo, Bangkok, and Seoul & so on. Singapore Airlines and SilkAir (a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines) announced that they will temporarily reduce services across our network due to weak demand as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Air France is set to cancel 3,600 flights this month as the coronavirus continues to spread stated by its parent Air France-KLM.
Australian airline Qantas also announced it would reduce its flight capacity to Asia by 16% until the end of May as with many flights to China, Hong Kong, and Singapore are affected, the airline stated. JetStar, a subsidiary of Qantas, by the end of May, will also cut its Asia flight capacity by 14 percent affecting service to Japan, Thailand and other flights within Asia.
Till now, more than 490 flights operated by foreign carriers to and from India have been cancelled for varying periods of time while the count of weekly flights cancelled by domestic airlines is more than 90, as per official data. On March 12, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that the number of international passengers arriving at the country's airports has come down to around 62,000 per day from 70,000 due to coronavirus outbreak. The count is expected to decline further to 40,000 following the fresh travel restrictions announced by the Indian government recently.
All Flights to be Suspended due to 21-day Lockdown
On March 24, India has imposed a 21-day complete lockdownto curb the coronavirus pandemic. This lockdown is supposed to end on April 14. Consequently, all domestic and international commercial passenger flights have been suspended for this time period. However, cargo flights, medical evacuation flights and offshore helicopter operations were allowed during the period.
On April 9, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the country will remove its restrictions on flight operations once it is fully confident that the spread of coronavirus has come under control. Resumption of international flights will be considered on a case-by-case basis after India's lockdown ends and will depend on which countries they are coming from. But Air India has already suspended domestic and international flights till April 30. All other airlines, except Air India, have been taking bookings for commercial passenger services from April 15.
The officials have asked all airlines to strictly follow the directives after lockdown is lifted. For instance, it is mandatory to keep the middle seat empty in flights for maintaining social distancing. While keeping the middle seat empty is important to ensure social distancing inside the aircraft, the last three rows will have to be kept empty in order to isolate a passenger if he or she develops symptoms mid-air. Indian airline SpiceJet chief Ajay Singh said that currently aviation sector is under a lot of pressure. The airline industry will soon cope with this low demand as this is not the first time this industry has faced such low demand.