‘The Fear Will Gradually Wane’: Former Air India ED , Jitender Bhargava on Travelling Amid COVID-19

shortby Article at Adotrip.com

There is no denying that the uncalled-for situations like the pandemic, COVID-19, require unprecedented moves by both – the public and the government. This is the reason why we are living a caged life we never wished for, for over 3 months now, and the Government, on the other hand, is trying hard and efficiently to fight the pandemic, so much so that everything was halted for a couple of months so that we adhere to the strict guidelines and stay safe, indoors.

While we are getting used to the “New Normal”, gradually different modes of travel are also being functional again. One of them is the airways which is currently considered to be the safest way to travel, if you must. Resuming services on May 25, today, that is June 25, marks the 1 month of the flight services recommencing. And, to know in detail about what all has changed and what the travel sector has to offer to us, we touched base with, Jitender Bhargava, the former ED of AirIndia and author of the popular book – The Descent of Air India.

In an exclusive conversation with him, we asked how safe he finds the flight to be in the current situation, considering social distancing might not be possible on it. On this, here’s what the former ED had to say, “There was a fair amount of apprehension amongst travelling public initially but the fear will gradually wane. In the first 20 days of flights resumption, only 0.03% of the passengers tested positive on arrival. The standing operating procedures introduced by the ministry of civil aviation for airlines and airports have taken care of the social distancing norms. Interaction between staff and passengers on the ground and in the air has been minimized. There is a huge difference between the way passengers are travelling now and how they travelled in Pre-COVID-19 times.”

He further added, “The dynamics of air travel has seen a paradigm shift since domestic flights were allowed to be resumed. All three stakeholders viz airports, airlines, and the passengers have been mandated to take precautions to ensure that air travellers neither get infected nor infect others. Additionally, state govts. are subjecting arriving passengers to quarantine to prevent air travellers infecting other citizens. This, by itself, is a huge deterrent for a person to think of travelling.”

Mr. Bhargava also stated that while the govt has restricted the number of flights, the loads have still not been very impressive. “Flights are averaging no more than 50-55% loads which means that more than a third of the seats on a flight are going unoccupied. This is primarily because a lot of people are afraid of getting infected during travel and do not want to be subjected to quarantine on arrival”, he added.

Speaking about the full-revival of the travel sector, he is of the opinion that things getting back to normal as they were before the pandemic might take up to 2 years. “There has been huge demand destruction with almost all industrial sectors having been adversely impacted, seeing layoffs, salary cuts, etc. Additionally, social engagements like weddings, business functions like conferences and seminars, and tourism which were the reason for travel have come to a virtual halt. It will begin reviving only after the threat of Coronavirus has been contained and the fear amongst the people has abated. All stakeholders will have to find innovative means like laying greater emphasis on domestic tourism”, said the author.  

When asked what according to him the Government could have done earlier to avert the current situation for the aviation sector, that directly hit the travel business, this was his answer, “Suspension of air services was a natural corollary to the lockdown imposed by the govt to contain the spread of Coronavirus. If the flights had not been suspended infected passengers ran the risk of infecting very many others and carrying the infection to a larger geographical spread. All segments of the travel business have been affected - be they the airlines, the hotels, the travel portals or the agents - including staff associated with these establishments. This has been a global phenomenon and is not restricted to India alone.

While some countries have extended financial bailouts, the Indian govt hasn’t extended any benefit thus far. It is desirable for the govt to provide relief but the fact that the govt has severe limitations on finances can’t be overlooked. This has been an unprecedented pandemic and its consequences have also therefore been equally horrendous.”

While according to Mr. Bhargava, it might take up to 2 years for the travel sector to revive, we at Adotrip, are ensuring that you keep your spirits high and keep reading about the culture and heritage of India so that your travel list is already made before we are done with the coronavirus, courtesy a website that is always vocal for the local. Stay tuned!