Covid-19 impact: Flying ban lands 80% of Indian aircraft at top six airports

New Delhi: India’s top six airports, including the two biggest hubs of New Delhi and Mumbai, are now home to about 80% of the civilian aircraft that have had to remain on the ground since the authorities enforced a blanked flying ban last week to help contain the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

“Indian carriers have around 650-odd planes in their fleet and parking for these airplanes is not a problem. All airports together, including the government-owned Airports Authority of India (AAI) airports, can handle many more planes,” said a senior AAI official, who did not wish to be named.

Airport officials said that Delhi airport itself has parking bays for about 196 aircraft and Mumbai has place for about 100 aircraft.

Data sourced from industry sources and flight tracking portals show that at top six airports — Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai — 538 of the total 650 aircraft are parked.

Sources, however, added that planes are also parked at one of the runways at Delhi airport, which is the only facility in India that has three runways.

“During operations, planes are used for domestic operations during the day and same planes are then used for international operations at night. So, at any given time, the number of parked planes is not high, as airlines would also want to keep flying these planes,” said an airline executive.

The executive added that there is enough space to park planes in the country. “Airports like Delhi have allowed parking of planes at one the runways, thus creating space for parking,” said the executive.

A Delhi airport executive said that parking on the runway was a temporary arrangement after a large number of planes flying domestic routes came in to park in the facility. India closed itself to international flights starting last Sunday and grounded all domestic flights starting Tuesday, causing planes to be parked at various airports.

Before these closures, Indian airports handled about 3,330 domestic and 580 international departures per day, according to the approved schedule for flights until March-end.

The airlines will still be charged parking fees for their planes.

“Airlines will have to pay a parking fee for their planes at airports. The government has not taken any call on waiving off the parking fee for these airlines yet,” said a senior government official, who did not want to be named.

While many countries have announced a bailout package for various industries, India has not announced any financial package for its aviation industry.

Countries such as the US, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, France, Sweden and Norway have announced financial relief packages for airlines in terms of funding, loan guarantees and tax rebates.

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