Virus scare jolts India to extend flying ban to Iran after China


NEW DELHI :
In wake of the widening spread of the coronavirus, India has extended a flying ban to Iran, which will be the second such country after China, a senior government official said on Thursday.

“There have been several coronavirus cases reported in Iran, which has a relatively poor medical infrastructure, which has resulted in the ban,” the official said requesting anonymity adding that the ban is indefinite at the moment.

“The death rate there is much higher than even China where the virus originated,” the official added.

At present only Iran Air and Mahan Air operates several weekly flights to Indian cities of Mumbai and New Delhi.

Traditionally, Iran has been an important trading partner for India although, the relations between the two countries have weakened following US sanctions on the Middle Eastern country.

India has already banned flights to China, while airlines have restricted flights to Hong Kong following the outbreak.

“While Indian airlines have suspended its operations to Hong Kong, some foreign airlines are operating from Hong Kong with a restricted capacity,” the government official added.

The spread of the coronavirus has forced Indian airlines to cancel flights to China and reduce frequencies to flights to South East Asia.

For instance IndiGo and Air India have suspended flights to China and Hong Kong. Meanwhile, SpiceJet have cancelled their flights to Hong Kong.

On Thursday, Vistara, a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, have canceled some flights to Bangkok and Singapore because of weak demand due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Vistara said it would cancel 20 flights between Delhi and Bangkok and eight between Delhi and Singapore in March. It will also cancel 26 flights between Mumbai and Singapore.

Meanwhile, the Indian aviation industry could see its international traffic growth reduce by at least a fifth if flights to and from South East Asian countries are completely suspended in the coming days due to the outbreak of corona virus, rating agency ICRA said in a statement on Thursday.

Indian aviation industry could see a maximum impact (of 19.5-23.8%) on the international passenger traffic growth if there is a complete suspension of flights to and from South East Asian countries including China, which could affect about 4.5-5.5 million passengers, said Kinjal Shah, Vice President, ICRA, said in the statement.

“This is negative for the Indian aviation industry, which is already reeling under significant passenger traffic slowdown, with the international traffic growth for the first nine months of fiscal 2020 having witnessed a decline of 8.4%,” Shah added.





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