Flights, trains unlikely to begin after COVID19 curbs end on May 3: Reports

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New Delhi: In a disappointment to people stranded outside their hometown, air and train services may not start even after the 40-day coronavirus lockdown comes to an end on May. However, the government may make arrangements to start special trains to ferry migrants.

A report in Hindustan Times quoted Union minister, who attended a Group of Ministers (GoM) meeting, as saying on condition of anonymity that there was a suggestion in the meeting chaired by Defence minister Rajnath Singh at his house that air travel may be started on May 15.

The report stated that these and other suggestions from a free-wheeling discussion attended by ministers including Textile minister Smriti Irani, aviation minister Hardeep Puri and others, will be conveyed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a final decision.

“There was a discussion on restarting air operations. The aviation minister also said that the planes being parked were also leading to an expense,” one of the attendees quoted as saying. However, Puri declined comment.

Meanwhile, Air India opened up international bookings from June 1, 2020 and bookings on select domestic routes from May 4, 2020.

“There were no specific dates discussed about when air and rail travel will start,” said an official who attended the meeting. “It is perhaps fair to say that it will take time. It will certainly go beyond May 3. In fact, it will be perhaps the last thing that is allowed.”

Another minister was quoted as saying that one of the suggestions at the meeting was on special trains to ferry migrants who are stranded. “It could be a non-stop train from Thiruvananthapuram to Bhubaneswar for example,” this person added.

The government announced a halt to domestic flights on March 23, ordering commercial airlines to shut down domestic operations on top of an existing ban on international flights to try and contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“The Ministry of Civil Aviation clarifies that so far no decision has been taken to open domestic or international operations,” civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a tweet late on Saturday.

“Airlines are advised to open their bookings only after a decision in this regard has been taken by the Government”, he added.

About 144 million people travelled on domestic flights last year.

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