Airlines are in a spot as India further restricts inbound travel amid coronavirus pandemic

High stakes.
High stakes.
Image: AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.
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Hopes are diminishing for struggling Indian airlines amid the coronavirus outbreak.

India today (March 17) barred entry (pdf) for flyers, including Indian citizens, coming from Afghanistan, Philippines, and Malaysia from immediate effect. A similar advisory was issued yesterday for those coming from the European Union (EU), European Free Trade Association, Turkey, and the UK.

“No airline shall board a passenger from these nations to India with effect from 1200 GMT on March 18, 2020. The airline shall enforce this at the port of initial departure,” the statement from India’s health ministry (pdf) read.

Additionally, the health ministry has also imposed a compulsory 14-day quarantine period for passengers coming from/transiting through UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait.

All the measures will stay in place till March 31.

These developments don’t bode well for domestic carriers.

“The travel advisory will certainly put the flyers into panic mode. Many of them are avoiding flying to domestic destinations too,” said Mumbai-based aviation analyst Ashish Nainan. “Furthermore, SpiceJet and IndiGo have inducted new planes in their fleet and with business going down, managing rising costs will be difficult for them, leading to a massive drop in their quarterly earnings.”

The situation is expected to deteriorate further as India reports more cases—the country has had 125 people tested positive for the flu till now.

Quarantines and mandatory screening orders are also discouraging flyers despite airlines assuring sanitised and safe flights.

For instance, the state of Maharashtra, which has recorded the maximum coronavirus cases so far, had announced a three-layer security for passengers coming from the affected countries. Yesterday, it was decided that a mark using indelible ink will be made on the wrists of all these passengers, so as to identify, track, and monitor them. 

So far over 1.3 million passengers have been screened at various Indian airports.

Coronavirus crisis

The aviation industry isn’t the only one embattled. Investors in the country have begun panicking if the stock markets are anything to go by.

On Monday, the benchmark indices in India slipped below their crucial support levels. While the National Stock Exchange’s Nifty hit a fresh three-year low, closing 756 points lower than the previous close, the S&P BSE Sensex had its worst day in 30 months. It ended 2,713 points lower at 31,390.

Today in opening trade too, the Sensex slipped 400 points while Nifty opened below 9,100.

Yesterday the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said all options were available to counter the crisis.

“Clampdowns are increasing both within and outside India, which will curtail consumer mobility and lead to deferral of spending,” said credit agency CRISIL in its latest note. “We foresee business reducing for airlines, hotels, malls, multiplexes, and restaurants.”

Meanwhile, the retail and restaurant industries in India are already witnessing a slowdown amidst the Covid-19 fears.