India’s airlines are desperate to start flying again, right?

Well, perhaps not on the terms being floated by the government...

The government wants airlines to only fly between green zone cities

As reported by Business Standard today, the government wants airlines to only fly between so-called “green zones”, where the presence of coronavirus is lower than elsewhere.

The problem? Most of India’s major metro cities are red - and they account for around 65 per cent of all domestic air travel.

At a meeting with the civil aviation ministry on Saturday, airline executives said the plan was a non-starter and suggested they may choose not to fly at all, even when restrictions are lifted, if major cities like Mumbai and Delhi are out of play.

One airline chief executive told Business Standard:

“Indian aviation cannot resume without at least three major airports being functional. If Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Kolkata are shut, there is little chance that airlines will start flying even if the government gives the go-ahead.”

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri was quoted as saying. “We will have to open the aviation sector in a gradual and calibrated manner. We can only plan for flights between two green zones. It will be difficult to resume services between red zones.”

Aviation industry veteran Sanjiv Kapoor, a former Vistara and SpiceJet executive, tweeted to agree that the plan isn't feasible:

Across India, the pace of coronavirus infection is growing, with the country reporting 60,829 cases, including 19,357 recovered patients and 2,109 deaths.

Interestingly, a Maharashtra state official said they have no plans yet to begin opening up transport. “Restarting aviation is not even on our agenda now,” they said.

Summing up

At least for the airlines, restarting operations without flying to major metros seems like a non-starter as there’s little enthusiasm for running direct flights exclusively between green cities like Goa and Porbander, for example.

What do you make of the government’s plan, and the airlines’ response?