Domestic flight to resume partially from May 25, not viable to keep middle seat vacant: Puri

New Delhi [India], May 20 (ANI): Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday said that domestic flight operations will resume from May 25 noting that all airlines and airports were ready but it is not viable to keep the middle seat vacant as it will lead to hike in the ticket price and prescribed social distancing norms would still not be met.

"Domestic flights will commence from May 25. Initially, only a small percentage of the total number of domestic flights will be operated. Then depending on the experience, we gain, we will increase the number of flights. It was necessary. We have to live with coronavirus now. All airlines and airports are ready," Puri told ANI.

He said if the middle seat is to be kept vacant, it will lead to an increase in fares by 33 per cent.

"It is not viable to keep the middle seat vacant. Even if you keep the middle seat vacant you will still have a situation where prescribed distance for social distancing is not followed. If you were to do it then you've to hike up airline ticket price by 33 per cent," he said.

Asked when international flights will resume, the minister said: "To open fully is premature now."

The minister said that Standard operating procedure (SOPs) for airline operations will be announced soon.

"I think Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) should not be made so onerous that they are difficult to be followed. We have now reached a happy balance and SOPs will be announced soon. Those will be the norms for some time," the minister said.

Asked about capping prices of airline tickets, he said: "We are looking at some basic measures that could be taken relating to capping prices of airline tickets, but those will be comfortable."

"We are commencing operation of flights to all parts of the country, including Kolkata. But weather and climatic conditions in Kolkata may not permit flight services at present," said Puri answering a query about the operation of flights to Kolkata.

Domestic flights in the country have been prohibited since March 25 when the first lockdown was enforced to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has deleted 'domestic air travel of passengers' from the list of prohibited activities in lockdown guidelines. (ANI)