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Domestic flights to resume in a ‘calibrated’ manner from Monday: Hardeep Puri

The Ministry of Civil Aviation will be announcing the standard operating procedures and routes for domestic air travel on Thursday.

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After nearly two months of the nationwide lockdown imposed by the government due to Covid-19, domestic flight operations are set to commence from 25 May. The Daily Guardian was the first to report about this newsbreak. Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Puri announced on Wednesday that India would start domestic flight operations in “a calibrated manner” from Monday.

“All airports and air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from May 25,” he said. The Ministry of Civil Aviation will be announcing the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and routes for domestic air travel on Thursday. Earlier, the government had suspended all domestic flights, except cargo-carrying flights, from 25 March. The suspension of flight operations got extended in line with the lockdown extension and the fourth phase will last till 31 May.

Thus, it remains to be seen how the government plans to reopen the skies on 25 May, as the lockdown will still be on. Interestingly, most airlines, except Air India, had opened their counters for booking from 1 June. The Aviation Minister on Tuesday had said that it was not only up to the Central government to decide on resumption of domestic flights, as states too would have to be ready to allow civil aviation operations.

The statement came just days after the lockdown was extended till 31 May and the suspension on both scheduled domestic and international flights was extended. The commencement of domestic flight operations will surely bring relief to the airlines, who had to resort to pay cuts to reduce expenditure. Many of them, including IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir, had also sent many of their staff on leave without pay. Meanwhile, Airports Authority of India (AAI) has finalised its standard operating procedure for restoring schedule commercial flights.

AAI which handles air traffic, expects 30% scheduled flights to get operational in the beginning between few cities and then the same will gradually be scaled up. It had also informed on 15 May that downloading and registering on the Aarogya Setu app, doing web check-in, taking a print out of boarding card to airport, wearing mask, keeping hand sanitisers would be mandatory for a passenger.