The civil aviation sector which was one of the worst affected industries is limping back to recovery thanks to the opening up of the domestic air flights and cargo carriers, states Industry experts at the webinar -COVID- 19 Impact and Opportunities’ for the civil aviation sector, organised by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).
Speaking at the webinar, Sanjay Kumar, Chief Strategy and Revenue Officer, Indigo explained that though the COVID 19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the industry, there are certain segments which would help it recover faster. “I believe there is a silver lining in cargo segment which is just a percentage lower than what it was in the pre-COVID times. The revenue from cargo has not been much affected despite the lock-down. Domestic travel is allowed on a 60% capacity. But I think it is slowly and steadily changing,” he said.
According to Kumar, the situation today is not the same as it was in the initial days of the lock-down. “We haven’t reached the pre-COVID situation yet but we are improving. There are several segments that are offering good opportunities. Chartered air flights too are offering great support,” he said.
He further stated that defining new rules and bringing back confidence among the travellers is the new aim of the industry. “The airlines are doing their best and will have to take care of the health and safety hygiene of the passengers in their flight,” he added.
Amitabh Khosla, country director, International Air Transport Association explained that 2020 has been the worst year for the Aviation industry with losses mounting in billions of dollars.
“The revenue for the aviation sector in the year 2019 was almost around $838 billion which has come down to $419 billion this year. Revenue for the industry has been cut by almost 50 per cent,” he said. He also noted that many airline companies, globally, have filed for bankruptcy protection.
Khosla further explained that the impact on the aviation sector has a cascading effect on other sectors as well. “The negative impact on the civil aviation sector has an impact on sectors like hotels, hospitality and tourism. It also has an impact on job opportunities. We believe that the recovery in the sector would happen only around the year 2024,” he opined.
Bharat Malkani, chairman, Max Aerospace and president of MRO Association of India explained that the coronavirus would be here for some time and mergers and acquisitions would be common soon.
“I agree that the cargo will grow but what we need is an ecosystem at the place. We don’t need the government funding or concessions but a working system in place to survive such pandemics,” he said.
Satyendra Kumar Mishra, joint secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation informed that after the lock-down, the government had to think critically on how to restart the aviation industry. “Initially there was a requirement of transport of essential goods and medical equipment. The government then thought of the Lifeline Udan initiative, under which the movement of essential and medical supplies across the nation was carried out,” he said.
He stated that the government of India then initiated the ‘Vande Bharat’ mission which aimed at bringing back the citizens of our country who were stuck in a foreign land. “Air India went to stations that it must have never gone before and as the demand went up, we even roped in the private players to help out in the mission,” he said.
Mishra explained that government in a calibrated manner has opened up the aviation sector from 35 per cent to almost 60 per cent now. “Taking the safety precautions into consideration, we are hopeful that as the situation improves, the sector would be opened up even further,” he pointed.
Vandana Aggarwal, Senior Economic Advisor, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India COVID-19 was all about disaster management and how we deal with it as a nation. “It was like we had to keep one step forward and one step backwards at the same time. Essential commodities had to keep running and hence, even in the lock-down the cargo had to work,” he said.
Explaining the virtues of the Krishi Udan Scheme, Aggarwal informed that the initiative launched by the ministry of civil aviation will go a long way in assisting the farmers. “It could help farmers in transporting agricultural products from a place where it is produced to a place it actually needs to go so that it improves their value realization,” she said.
Remi Maillard, President, Airbus India explained that opening up the domestic sector in a phased manner would help in reviving the sector.
“While Indian airline companies are suffering losses, the situation is not different in other countries. Passengers have to be told that travel by airlines is the safest form of travel today. Once they get in the confidence, then recovery is possible,” he said.
Maillard informed that that recovery in India would be much faster due to the size of the market. “The revival will at least take a year and the domestic market should be the focus right now. Regional connectivity is of utmost importance right now,” he remarked.
Salil Gupte, president, Boeing India informed that we need a confident travel initiative that aims at three levels of horizons. “Leadership is the global effort to provide passengers and crew with a safe, healthy and efficient travel experience. The three layers of protection are as follows -Prevent the virus from reaching the airplane, keep the airplane free of viruses and minimize transmission of viruses on the airplane,” he explained.
Gupte further stated that a multi-layered approach is needed to be adopted by the airline companies to protect passengers and the crew.
K. Narayana Rao, chairman, ASSOCHAM National Council on Civil Aviation stated that all the stakeholders and government should come together on one platform and work collectively for developing the sector.
“The need of the hour is a collaborative approach. We need to largely focus on how to promote tourism and bring back the same confidence among the passengers about travelling. It is time to convert the written methods into an action plan. We desperately need to work together,” he said.