A thermal screening device checks passengers arriving in India from China, in view of the coronavirus outbreak, at Delhi international airport | PTI Photo
File photo of a thermal screening device checking passengers arriving in India from China, in view of the coronavirus outbreak, at Delhi international airport | PTI Photo
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India’s skies are empty. Where once massive jetliners flew, flocks of birds dart around. Meanwhile, on the ground, travelers worry about when and how they will fly again. Air travel in the pre-coronavirus times had become so affordable and convenient that hawaii chappal wale bhi hawaii jahaj par chal rahe the. Unfortunately, during the lockdown, all this has come to a sudden halt. India’s commercial fleet has about 670 aircraft, but apart from a few planes flying evacuation and cargo flights, this entire fleet remains parked.

Despite the gloomy present, the future looks bright for India’s aviation system. Here’s why. First, air travel is the safest mode of long-distance transportation in terms of accidents. It is also probably the safest mode of travel as far as the risks associated with coronavirus infections are concerned. Passengers are therefore likely to switch in large numbers away from rail and car to air travel.

Second, with the plunge in oil prices, air travel will become even more affordable.

And, finally, it is likely that air travel will move decisively away from hub-and-spoke international flying and switch largely to direct, point-to-point international flights. In the post-coronavirus world, India’s aviation system is going to boom.


Also read: Airlines and airports will need very expensive revamp to survive in the virus era


Oil’s well for airlines

Air travel has long been recognised as the safest mode of long-distance transportation compared to driving or taking a train. While most of this analysis has been done for the US and Europe, it holds true for India as well, given our excellent air safety record in the past few years. In the coronavirus world, passengers now also worry about the risk of infection spread. Air circulation in planes equals that of the best hospitals reducing the risk of viral infection. In addition, overall exposure is much lower because rail and car travel can take 10 times longer than a flight to a far-off destination.

India has amongst the lowest air fares in the world. On a per kilometre basis, air travel generally costs about Rs 5 for an economy seat. These low prices have resulted in flying becoming very affordable for India’s vast middle class. Students fly to their universities, parents go to visit their children, families go home to visit grandparents for Diwali, and business people jet off to visit their suppliers and customers. Air travel today has become part of our daily lives.

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Oil prices have now plunged by almost 50 per cent going from about $60 per barrel to $30 per barrel. Jet fuel accounts for about 30-40 per cent of the total cost of flying. Therefore, as long as aviation turbine fuel taxes do not increase, this will bring down the price of flying substantially. Moreover, with the use of electric cars and two-wheelers growing quickly, aviation fuel prices are likely to remain low in the foreseeable future.


Also read: The unruly Indian flier is about to get a crash course in airport civility thanks to Covid


Direct international flights will directly benefit airlines

The coronavirus pandemic may bring down the curtain on vast international hubs. Entire economies have been built around city-like airports that bring in passengers from destinations around the world and then have them connect to their eventual destinations. Airports have become a 21st century fusion of luxurious shopping, delightful parks, funky entertainment, swanky hotels, and delectable dining, optimised to capture passenger spending. Unfortunately, these very same qualities make them highly susceptible to spreading highly infectious diseases. Air travellers will likely prefer to avoid such hub airports and travel quickly and conveniently to their destinations.

This is good news for India’s aviation system. Now, instead of connecting at some hub airport and then traveling on to Europe, Japan, the US, or Australia, travellers will fly directly to these countries. Taking advantage of these trends, our airlines will likely add long-haul widebody planes to their existing narrowbody fleets. Today, our Indian airlines fly only about 20-30 per cent of international travellers from India. We can hope that this number will grow quickly and the majority of Indian travellers will be flying internationally on Indian airlines.

Naturally, this will benefit our airports as well. Duty-free shopping will be done at Indian airports. Entertainment and dining will be consumed locally, driving revenue and job growth at our airports across India.


Also read: No in-flight magazines, health checks, longer queues — How flying could change post Covid


India’s opportunity

The passenger experience in the airport and on the plane is also likely to become much more convenient. Social distancing will be the norm and many operations will be automated. With the new DigiYatra system being rolled out, passengers will be able to check-in, get their luggage loaded, and board their flights without coming close to any security person or gate agents. Retail and dining establishments will ensure that there is no crowding in their stores. Security checking will initially move more slowly, but body scanners will eventually speed up the frisking process. On board, passengers will naturally be wearing their masks and gloves while flight crew will probably be suited up in PPE kits.

In 2019, Indian airlines flew over 200 million passenger trips, including about 144 million domestic trips. There were about 180 million upper class and 1.5 billion second class mail/express passenger trips on Indian railways in FY19 so there is ample room for air travel to boom in the next few years. India’s skies will soon be humming again with the whir of jet engines.

Jayant Sinha is the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Finance in Parliament and a Lok Sabha MP from Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. Views are personal.

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21 Comments Share Your Views

21 COMMENTS

  1. Measures in early July 2020 aimed at boosting up Japanese aviation sector.
    This Vedic astrology writer chanced upon reading news report published on 6 July , 2020 at aviationpros.com , which conveyed that Japan Airlines had revised its frequency plans on the said date for the month of July 2020. The news report further said that since 3 July , the carrier had reinstated service to Singapore and from 9 July , JAL would offer two flights per week to Dalian , China. Some days prior on 22 June 2020 , the European Union and Japan signed an agreement on civil aviation safety , which is expected to further boost the EU’s already strong cooperation with Japan and reinforce the competitiveness of the EU’s industry. The news report can be seen in the light of this writer’s predictive alert in article – “ Vedic astrology highlights for Japan in coming year 2020” – brought to public domain widely in Japan on 23 October and around in 2020. The text in the said article related to aviation sector reads like this :-
    “ As said , the second half of the coming year 2020 looks to be brightening prospects for Japan in more than one sphere of life. Economy may grow. Enterprises , projects or national issues which were pending for nearly a year or two , are set to be taking concrete shape. Fruits or flowers may come up well. Space program , mobile , internet , air travel ( aviation sector ) look to be coming up markedly well”. The aviation sector or some other sectors of economy in Japan passed through a major worrisome stage of setback during April-June in 2020. This was readable in the predictive alerts of this writer in the said article of 23 October , 2019 as follows :-
    “ A period of three months from April to June in 2020 , looks to be giving rise to some worrisome concerns…………………………………….Expenses may be more than revenue or revenue may be slow to arrive”. It may be shared with readers that the predictive alert was made by this writer on 23 October , 2019 when novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) had yet not born.
    It can also be predicted that things may witness some kind of improvement on the aspect of aviation sector between 11 August to 10 September in 2020.

  2. Thank you very much print team and Jayanta Sinha for sharing positive article. I believe you are right in your article and again not only Air Travel but also Hotel Industry & Taxi Companies will also boom. Lets pray to god to come back on track again. Lets all be together and fight against this chinese corona.

    Thanks
    Sushil Kumar
    Managing Director
    Travelodesk India
    https://www.travelodesk.com

  3. Jayant Sinha, I wonder if you lack a basic understanding of microbial transmission and economics. How much are you being paid to write a boatload of S***? Flights are flying petri dishes . The DCGI needs to hault any air travel till a decent reduction in case loads happens for a sustained period. Indigo and others can furlough staff for a few months instead of spreading an already out of control pathogen and taking it to green zones. Also Airlines should charge more to passengers ensuring they provide their staff and travelers with PPE kits and on demand testing. This is as much the onus of the pvt sector and the government to save human lives. Jayant Sinha I am lay man but as a news writer you really need to get a reality check done and stop confusing people.

  4. Ridiculous journalism. Pls refer to national geographic content on air travel during corona times. Have some authenticity in your reporting.

  5. I believe Indian aviation sector’s outlook seems dark. If there is any social distancing guidelines on aviation, the sector will loose big chunk of money because of vacant seats. Anyways, does not look like there will be any positive news for aviation sector soon apart from opening them

  6. Vande Bharat mission is good but from gulf countries Indians so many people’s are jobless and facing money and food problems. In kuwait weekly one flight to Hyderabad or Andhra Pradesh not enough for peoples to much take times please increase number of flights and understand our people’s problems.

  7. I agree completely with Jayant.Air travel should begin 1st June 2020 and International travel too.India’s airlines has thousands of employees seating idle and can start working and bring in most needed cash for the airlines and country.Within a month India can earn lots of money and allow foreign buyers to start using our manufacturing units to replace China.

  8. Kindly do not misguide people as airlines will operate@50%capacity for which tickets will be expensive & in Air conditioning environment the viruses are known to spread so cannot claim to be the safest in fact most infectious.
    Pl be more responsible.

  9. Imagine…locked up in a closed loop air circulation system with someone who is a potential virus carrier (after all no system of monitoring and checking can be fool proof).

    No thanks!

  10. Air travel will be more unsafe as the pressurised cabin will retain the covid19 virus for longer time as it has been proved by AI PILOTS getting infected just being to WUHAN. The second factor is all airlines in India will be too busy to open the counters and fly passengers without doing any maintenance work as it may cost money and time.

  11. Hey Print! I follow you on YouTube. I watched a video from CBC News which is contradictory with your claims of airplane safety with respect to disease and microbial spread in airplanes. Link for the video is https://youtu.be/VZUVbQrVZIU. Check the video and reply me with the an appropriate explanation so that I would get to know if my knowledge regarding this is right or wrong.

  12. hawaii chappal wale bhi hawaii jahaj par chal rahe the.

    Seriously? How are you even allowed to write? Not cool.

  13. As if Indigo and Air Asia are going reduce their fares even by a third. Even the cheapest flights are not affordable for regular travel.

    Get real.

  14. Not sure what the basis of his statement is when he says “it is also probably the safest mode of travel as far as the risks associated with coronavirus infections are concerned” and the statement about quality of air due to circulation is also unsubstantiated. Hospitals are hotbeds of infections – viral and bacterial – so the comparison is scary. Aeroplanes are also notoriously unsanitary. So this is a pretty strange opinion to voice. And seeing as hwo the link is doing the rounds on whatsapp – its only a matter of time that ppl say “i read it on whatsap – air travel is safe – lets throw caution to the winds and fly”!!

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