Before and after pictures show how the Coronavirus travel ban brought airlines to a grinding halt since March

Air India planes parked at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai after the Indian government announced a ban on international flightsBCCL

  • Global commercial air traffic is now only at 29% compared to pre-Coronavirus levels.
  • In India, the drop is even more dramatic as only evacuation and relief flights are allowed to fly.
  • Pictures show how the flurried skies now lie empty as governments around the world restrict international air travel and go into lockdown.
The first industry to get hit as Coronavirus started to spread across the world was aviation. Most countries initially placed restrictions on international air travel followed by a ban on domestic air travel as well.

Global commercial air traffic fell from an average of 103,397 flights a day to a mere 31,214 flights a day between March 1 to April 7, according to the flight tracking app, Flightradar24. Global commercial air traffic has now stabilised at around 29% of its previous levels.

Flightradar24/Flourish/BI India

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The Indian government banned all international flights starting March 22 causing a dramatic dip in air traffic — only evacuation and relief flights are now allowed to take to the skies. A large part of India’s airline fleet, nearly 80%, now remain parked at six of the busiest airports in the country, an official from the Airports Authority of India (AAI) told ET.

Drop in commercial air traffic in IndiaFlightradar24

The situation is not very different in other parts of the world, except perhaps the United States where the decline is noticeable — but not nearly as substantial in the parts of the world.

Drop in commercial air traffic globallyFlightradar24

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China, where the first case of Coronavirus was reported on 31 January 2019, saw a decline of nearly 60% from normal levels.

Drop in commercial air traffic over ChinaFlightradar24

Coronavirus and its impact on Indian aviation sector
Indian aviation industry is the fourth largest in the world. It provides employment to around 8 million people in the country and contributes around $72 billion to India’s GDP. Furthermore, it is also a considerable contributor to the tourism industry, which accounts for nearly 9.2% of India’s GDP.

The ban on international and domestic flights will hurt the states of Maharashtra and Kerala the most according to KMPG’s report of Covid-19’s impact on the Indian economy. The overall threat is greater than what it was during the global financial crisis of 2008 or the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre.
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It’s not just airlines that have to worry but other stakeholders like airports, ground handlers, cargo operators, fuel suppliers and more. The revenue loss could be as massive at $252 billion in the financial year of 2021 as per International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) estimates. However, IATA also notes that recovery may be possible on the basis of India’s strong domestic industry provided the pandemic is brought under control.

KMPG recommends that the Indian government should treat all tourism entities, which includes aviation, as a priority sector for lending. The credit allowance to airlines should be increased and ventures in distress should receive funding from the government.

In the short run, as the world waits of the pandemic to play itself out, the government should incentivise airport operators to defer lease rentals and, in turn, should also get relief on revenue share that’s payable for at least the next 12 months — or until air travel volumes return to pre-Coronavirus levels.
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Additional support for regional carriers can be carved from the Regional Connectivity Fund (RCF) for at least the next six months.

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