Air India defies Coronaviris threat: will continue flights to China
New Delhi: When Air India is on sale and the Government of India even has released the Preliminary Information Memorandum (PIM) for inviting Expression of Interest (EOI) from the Interested Bidders (IBs) for Strategic Disinvestment of the national carrier, Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani has failed to acknowledge the threat posed by major epidemic of Coronavirus that has been spreading in China and has chosen not to suspend with immediate effect all Air India flights to Hong Kong and China.
Instead Air India is only curtailing some flights to China. Air India will continue to operate its flights to Hong Kong. On Wednesday evening, One business class seat was still available on Air India flight AI348 between Delhi and Shanghai. Similarly Air India was also offering Business class seats on Shanghai-Delhi route on different dates in the first fortnight of February through code sharing.
Wednesday evening, Air India said it is suspending its flights on Delhi-Shanghai route but not Hong Kong from January 31 to February 14. Air India has also suspended its Mumbai-Delhi-Shanghai flight from January 31 to February 14. In the meanwhile, the only advisory to the Air India crew on other flights between India and China is that they should be wearing masks. This is in sharp contrast with British Airways that was the first carrier to suspend all direct flights to and from mainland China because of the Coronavirus outbreak. British citizens returning to the UK from Wuhan have been put in quarantine for two weeks.
This is the state of affairs vis-a-vis Air India when Government of India is all set for transfer of management control and sale of 100% shares of Air India along with Air India’s 100% stake in its subsidiary, Air India Express Limited and 50% stake in joint venture, AISATS.
Just like British Airways, United Airlines of the US has also temporarily suspended its flights (February 1 though February 8) between its US hubs and Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
AirAsia also has extended suspension of flights to Wuhan until February 29
There are also other international carriers that have cancelled flights connecting Hongkong and mainland China.
Among private Indian Carriers, Indigo has suspended its flight to Chengdu but continues to operate the Kolkata-Guangzhou flight.
Instead of appreciating the emergency and taking a cue from airlines that have suspended all flights to China taking into account the Coronoavirus threat, the decision to continue Air India flights to China, barring suspension of flights to Shanghai, amounts to endangering crew and importing Coronavirus.