India's aviation sector, which is witnessing unprecedented losses due to the coronavirus, has sought to levy an additional “corona surcharge” from flyers in order to make up for the material damage.
“To address the growing severity of the issue and to ensure sustainability of operations for airports, we propose to levy a nominal passenger charge as part of airline fares to cover increased operating expenses being incurred by the operators", said the Association of Private Airport Operations, in a letter to the aviation regulator, Airports Economic Regulatory Authority.
While the Association sought to levy the additional surcharge from flyers, the federal Civil Aviation Ministry has asked all international airlines to support their passengers amidst the pandemic by waiving off cancellation and re-scheduling fees.
“In the current scenario, it would be appropriate if airlines support their passengers in this tough time by waiving off cancellation and re-scheduling charges or by providing any other incentive", a circular by the ministry said.
Low-cost private carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet have waived off their re-scheduling and cancellation charges until 31 March in view of the spread of the coronavirus.
The aviation sector in India has been taking a hit due to the infection, which claimed its first life in India on Thursday (12 March). Budget carrier IndiGo stated that it has seen a 15-20 percent decline in daily bookings: "We expect our quarterly earnings to be materially impacted because of the above".
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) pegged the estimated loss to the sector at $113 billion: “This scenario results in a $28 billion loss of passenger revenues for Asia-Pacific airlines", the IATA said.
Earlier this week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus a pandemic. India has suspended all visas, except “diplomatic, official, UN/International Organisations, employment, project visas”, as well as those with visa-free travel cards.
At present, over 128,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus and more than 4,700 have succumbed to the illness worldwide.