Economy

Air India to be hit worst by govt’s decision not to allow travellers from Europe

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on March 18, 2020 Published on March 18, 2020

Too early to say how many aircraft will be grounded due to the advisory, say analysts

Though analysts maintain that it is still too early to give the exact number of aircraft that Indian carriers will have to ground due to the government ban on international travel to and from India from some nations, some figures are emerging.

According to CAPA, Indian carriers may have to initially ground 150 aircraft (including almost all of the international fleets) with this number expected to increase as domestic operations are curtailed in the coming weeks.

Others in the industry present a more optimistic figure as they maintain that initially Indian carriers might have to withdraw 50-55 aircraft as a result of fall in demand and India placing visa restrictions on passengers arriving from abroad.

This figure is a slight increase from the 40-45 aircraft being grounded that was doing the roundson the second day of the recently concluded Hyderabad air show.

The worst to be hit by these bans will be Air India.

On Tuesday Air India announced that it was withdrawing all its flights on routes to Europe including London, Vienna and Frankfurt. Air India is the only Indian carrier that flies on such long-haul routes in Europe.

IndiGo is the only other carrier which operates flights to Europe — connecting Delhi to Istanbul. Air India has said that the withdrawal of flights to Europe is till March 31.

Industry watchers say that almost 80 per cent of Air India’s wide-body fleet might have to be grounded if the ban on carrying passengers from Europe continues. A clearer picture on how many of Air India aircraft will be grounded is likely to emerge by Thursday as the ban on passengers flying in from Europe comes into effect from March 18 (Europe time).

Air India has a fleet of 44 wide-body aircraft which includes 27 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, 14 Boeing 777 and three Boeing 747. The airline uses the Boeing 787 mostly on its flights to Europe while the Boeing 777 are mostly used for flights to the US and Canada. If industry watchers are correct then almost 35 of the 44 wide-body aircraft in Air India’s fleet could be grounded.

“Our aircraft not only fly international but also on domestic routes. Many things including whether the crew has completed its full work schedule and whether the aircraft is due for a major check will have to be looked at before counting the number of crew and aircraft on the ground,” a senior airline official said.

“It is too early to put a number on how many aircraft are grounded across airlines in India considering the travel advisories issued by the government and the dynamic scenario across regions due to Coronavirus,” says Nripendra Bahadur Singh, Industry Principal, Aerospace, Defense and Security Practice, Frost & Sullivan.

Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, Director, Practice Leader, Transport-Infrastructure Advisory, Crisil is of the view that between 8-10 per cent of the 650 aircraft which are currently available with all domestic airlines may have to be grounded.

Meanwhile, Vistara late on Wednesday said that it is suspending international operations from March 20 to March 31. It added that the airline has also temporarily adjusted capacity for March and April.

Published on March 18, 2020
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