One step at a time, the Indian government was closing in on travel to contain the spread of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. While suspension of all international services was announced first, what was expected did happen eventually – a total suspension of air traffic within India.
It was well timed – 48 hours after the last scheduled international flight into India. This meant that connecting passengers had reached their destinations. Even before the announcement was made on March 23, Indian airlines had grounded nearly half its fleet as passengers stayed away from air travel.
With less than 48 hours to plan, execute and shut down, it was a scramble for airlines to get planes to base and also the crew. The initial indefinite suspension was curtailed to midnight of March 31, only to be now pushed ahead due to the national lockdown.
With a lot of uncertainty around the duration of the closure, it was imperative that the airlines send the crew back to their home base. Not only would it add to airlines’ costs to house the crew in a hotel, at a time when they are earning no revenue, but also the situation wouldn’t be favourable for the crew to be stuck at a place away from home. Besides, one wouldn’t know if hotels would continue to function or not!