Restarting of flights another step to helping country emerge out of lockdown mentality

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With airlines resuming operations from Monday, another big leap to emerge out of the lockdown and kickstart the economy has been taken. The decision, which follows conditional resumption of trains and buses, is a much needed confidence booster. Both citizens left stranded by the sudden declaration of the lockdown and those who need to travel for professional reasons will benefit greatly from the move.

No less significant is the relief this decision will offer to airline companies, which have been grounded for two months, raising grave concerns about their viability. But moves to place ceilings and floors on tariffs they can charge must be relooked. Market dynamics will help arrive at rates that are viable for both airlines and flyers. Airlines will know that they need to get people flying again and levying astronomical fares will drive away passengers.

The loss of carriers like Jet and Kingfisher have hurt Indian civil aviation and we cannot afford to lose more airlines. Revenue de-growth and piling debts mean that airlines will need additional funding to the tune of Rs 35,000 crore during FY21-23. Earlier plans to leave middle seats in airlines empty seem to have been quietly dropped in recognition of their financial crunch.

It is also important to make the flying experience easier for people. Transport to and from airports have to be eased up and people should be able to breeze in and out without being stuck in long queues. The emphasis should be on frequent usage of masks and sanitisers to put flyers at ease and to warn violators. Initial trends emerging from air travel resumption will offer cues for opening malls,  restaurants and theatres.

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