A Pune-Delhi AirAsia India flight was fumigated and disinfected, and the passengers screened for the novel coronavirus after suspected patients were reported to be on board. An AirAsia India spokesperson said, "There was a case reported of suspected COVID-19 passengers aboard I5-732, Pune to New Delhi on 20th March 2020, seated in Row 1. The passengers were subsequently screened and tested negative." As a safety measure, the aircraft was parked at a remote bay and suspected passengers disembarked from the front door, the spokesperson noted.
All other passengers, escorted by the crew, disembarked from the rear door, the spokesperson added. "Crew in the cockpit self-quarantined till the cabin environment near the primary exit was ascertained to be safe. The captain elected to disembark from the secondary exit using a secure trestle, given the close proximity of the seats from the cockpit," the spokesperson said. The pilot-in-command after landing chose to come out of the plane through cockpit's secondary exit, which is a sliding window.
With coronavirus fear on the verge of scaling up in India, the story could just get grim for India's airline industry, even as internationally, the aviation story, by all prospects, is set to get from bad to worse.
India's domestic aviation sector, after being one of the fastest growing in the world in the last few years, had gone in for a tumble in 2019 following a slowdown in the economy and bankruptcy of the leading private full-services carrier Jet Airways, back in April last year. Domestic growth was just two per cent in January, the month coronavirus struck, and the figures for February and March are expected to be worse.
“The airline industry is looking at a very grim (next) six months,” says Atul Todi, CEO and co-founder of 10times, a business event platform. “With cases just appearing in India....(and) with majority of their costs, airlines, flying permits and even employees affected to a great extent, we can expect major stress on their revenue.”
International airline body IATA has warned that the loss for global airliners due to the coronavirus flight suspensions could be around $30 billion. This estimate was before hotspots like Iran and South Korea popped up on the horizon.