Air travel will return to pre-COVID levels by the end of December or by the beginning of 2021, Minister of Civil Aviation (MoCA) Hardeep Singh Puri said on Monday while speaking at the Indian School of Business’s Deccan Dialogue event.
Mr. Puri who was giving the valedictory dialogue at the event was quoted in The New India Express as having said: “We opened civil aviation on May 25 — 2 months and 2 days after the complete lockdown — with 30,000 passengers a day. Two days back, just before Diwali, we carried 2.25 lakh passengers.”
The Minister who also holds the portfolio of Urban and Housing Affairs said that as of now civil aviation is running at a 70 per cent level in a calibrated manner. “I have already told my colleagues to look at 80 per cent. I am confident that by December 31, or soon thereafter (week or two into January) we will return to pre-COVID levels,” he said.
Mr. Puri also said that when civil aviation is fully operational, there will be a need to strengthen the existing safety protocols. “That requires that we continue to maintain and strengthen the existing safety protocols and we adapt. It requires professional people to set up those protocols and also requires self-discipline,” he said.
The Union minister also said stressed on increasing the aviation sector’s contribution to the GDP of the country. Terming the present aviation model as distorted, Puri said, “The value of air traffic between USA and India is roughly $7 billion annually. How much do Indian carriers get of the traffic? They get mere 17 per cent. It is not that the USA carriers get the remaining 83 per cent — not going to say who gets it. I see no reason why Indian flagship or private carriers can’t earn more money flying passengers. These are distorted business models.”
Last month, Minister Puri had said the future of international flights is now depending on the availability of a vaccine. Answering a question on whether travel bubble arrangements will continue till March-April, the minister had said, “It is difficult to say as there is no country which has completely opened its borders for all. It depends on the availability of a vaccine as countries will feel more confident once a vaccine is there.”
On November 11, the MoCA announced that it was allowing domestic carriers to increase their operations from the existing 60 percent to 70 percent of the pre-COVID approved capacity. Over 2.06 lakh passengers have used the domestic air services since flight operations resumed post-COVID-19 lockdown.
The Union Civil Aviation Minister further added that the Vande Bharat Mission has so far facilitated international travel of more than 2.9 million stranded and distressed people, out of which more than one million have been facilitated by Air India and Air India Express alone. Now in the Phase-7, Vande Bharat Mission continues to reach out to citizens across the world, Puri wrote in another tweet.