IndiGo to bid for Virgin Australia; Air India, SpiceJet boost unique operations

The Government of India is now looking into a staggered exit from lockdown. As such, it plans to start most of the economic industries with the aviation industry being a part of that.

Two IndiGo Airbus A321neos sit next to a Midle Eastern Airlines A321neo at Airbus’ Hamburg facility. Photo by Max Sutter | AeroNewsX

Almost every Indian airline will be accepting bookings from 1 June, 2020 onwards. The Indian Civil Aviation authority has said that it would be giving a 10 days prior notice to all the airlines before the resumption of service.

A circular issued on 13 May by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) said: “In view of the prevailing situation of COVID-19 pandemic and countermeasures being taken to contain its spread by touch/contact, it has been decided to dispense with the procedure of stamping the passengers’ Boarding pass, after completion of pre-embarkation security check of the concerned passenger, till further orders.”

Air India is gearing up for Phase 2 of mission “Vande Bharat”. This mission was launched by the Indian government to bring back its stranded passengers abroad. Phase 2 is scheduled to start from May 16th which is expected to ferry almost 30,000 Indians stranded abroad. Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted: "Phase II of Vande Bharat from 16-22 May will also include flights from Armenia, Australia, Belarus, Canada, France, Georgia, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Nigeria, Russia, Tajikistan, Thailand and Ukraine."

SpiceJet’s cargo operations have been running at its peak since the lockdown started. The airline has been consistently using its 5 Boeing 737 freighter aircraft to transport essential goods and medical supplies. SpiceJet has transported close to 6650 tons of cargo on more than 916 flights since the nation-wide lockdown began.

Out of the 916 flights operated, 337 were international cargo flights. It recently added Baghdad to its International cargo network. Ajay Singh, Chairman & Managing Director at SpiceJet, said: “Baghdad is the latest addition to our network in the Middle East. We transported 20 tons of COVID-19 related medical supplies to Iraq today and are thankful for each and every opportunity that we get to serve in these times of crisis.”

InterGlobe Enterprises led by Rahul Bhatia, which is also the largest stakeholder in IndiGo Airlines has signed an agreement to participate in the sale of Virgin Australia. This is probably the first time an Indian company is bidding for a foreign airline. “As regards Virgin Australia, InterGlobe Enterprises has signed an agreement to participate in the sale process and is bound by the confidentiality requirements of that agreement. We are unable to say anything further at this stage," InterGlobe said in a statement.

Indigo has revised contracts of its “non-revised” pilots. “Non revised” pilots are the pilots who are undergoing training. The new contact has given them a 50% pay-cut and they have been asked to be 2 weeks on duty and 2 weeks off duty. "These are non-released pilots. They have got a 50 percent pay cut, and the new contract is valid till March 2021," said a senior executive.

Now the question remains as to when normal commercial operations will resume and how these airlines will bounce back from the pandemic.

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