India allows airlines to resume flights even as infections jump

India will allow airlines to resume domestic flights next week — exactly two months after a lockdown grounded all planes — as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to gradually restart economic activity even as coronavirus infections in the nation jumps at the fastest pace in Asia.

“Domestic civil aviation operations will recommence in a calibrated manner from Monday 25th May, 2020,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a Twitter post on Wednesday. “All airports and air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from 25th May.”

Airlines around the world have struggled to remain in business, with some shutting down, as travel restrictions to contain the spread of the virus dried cash flows. The order to ban local flights — which came into effect on March 25, just days after banning international operations, grounded 650 planes in the country, prompting industry analysts at CAPA Centre for Aviation to speculate that struggling airlines would have to sell shares to stay alive.

Infections in the South Asian nation of 1.3 billion people were at 106,886, including 3,303 deaths, as of Wednesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The aviation ministry will issue standard guidelines on passenger movement separately, Puri said.

India is home to some of Airbus SE and Boeing Co.’s biggest customers — carriers in the region ordered more than 1,000 planes in recent years — and its emerging middle class made the country one of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets. But competition intensified so much in recent years that Jet Airways India Ltd., once the nation’s biggest carrier, shut operations last year.

InterGlobe Aviation Ltd.’s IndiGo, Asia’s biggest budget airline by market value, is the largest customer for Airbus’ A320neo jets, while SpiceJet Ltd. is one of the top customers for Boeing’s 737 Max jets. Singapore Airlines Ltd. and AirAsia Group Bhd. also compete in the market with local ventures, alongside state-run Air India Ltd. and Go Airlines India Ltd.

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