The coronavirus pandemic has had a tremendous impact on airlines across the globe. The lockdown measures imposed by countries around the world have effectively halted the passenger side of the aviation industry, and the situation is no different in India. This pandemic has caused millions of dollars of loss in revenue to the airlines, so let's see what has happened this week in Indian aviation.
SpiceJet has dramatically grown its freighter operations with aircraft flying across the nation carrying essential supplies. It also operated its first-ever cargo flight to China ferrying COVID-19 related essential medical supplies from Shanghai to Hyderabad. SpiceJet's Chairman, Ajay Singh, said, “From today, SpiceJet freighters have begun ferrying crucial medical supplies from China. In addition to Shanghai, we are also operating freighters in Singapore and Sri Lanka. Domestic cargo operations have improved as both our Boeing 737 and Q400 aircraft are operating cargo-on-seat flights. We have put our resources to maximum use transporting over 2,700 tons of cargo on more than 300 flights since the nation-wide lockdown began,” he said.
Like most airlines, SpiceJet is facing a huge financial burden with the increase in cancellations and no steady cash flow. Because of this, the airline is entering turbulent times. It has offered a 30% pay-cut to its employees. Recently Ajay Singh, in a statement regarding social distancing on board the flights, also said “This whole business of keeping social distancing on a flight by keeping a seat vacant is a mere eyewash. If you look at the distance between the window seat and the aisle seat, that's less than 2 feet, so even if you leave a seat vacant, that 2 feet distance is not sufficient. The government needs to find other ways. We can check the temperature of passengers and ensure people are wearing gloves and masks. This will raise fares and make the already fragile aviation industry more fragile. More importantly, this has no impact at all on the possibility of the infection getting spread.”
Budget airline IndiGo is in talks with its aircraft lessors to try and defer lease rental payment for at least 6 months. IndiGo had recently announced a pay-cut to its employees, but the airline decided to change that decision as the Government asked them not to do so. IndiGo’s CEO, Ronojoy Dutta, announced that “In deference to our government’s wishes of not reducing pay during the lockdown, we have decided not to implement the previously announced pay cuts to most staff during April. However, executive committee members and senior vice-presidents have volunteered to take pay cuts this month.” Indigo also has plans to start international cargo operations.
Air India is currently the most active Indian airline. It has rescued citizens stuck abroad and carried essential items during this crisis. According to DGCA data, there have been 227 flights operated under the “Lifeline Udan” scheme with 138 operated by Air India and its subsidiary, Alliance Air. It has been very active in flying to international countries to get Indian citizens home. Indian Airlines have transported a total of 551 tons of medical and essential cargo. The situation is only worsening in many countries, and we at AeroNewsX hope everyone is in good health during these turbulent times.