Pakistan and India are easing some of their coronavirus-related lockdown measures, though it will still be at least more than two weeks before aircraft flying scheduled international flights take to both countries’ skies as Pakistan has extended its flight ban and India’s remains subject to review.
The lockdown in Pakistan has been extended for 15 more days until 9 May. On the ground at least, things have moved to a so-called “smart lockdown”, whereby there will be targeted tracking and tracing of cases while allowing some industrial and commercial activities to resume under safety guidelines, Reuters reported on 25 April.
Around the same time, the government has extended the ban on international flights. The Aviation Division of Pakistan says in a press release posted on its Twitter account that “[a]s per the decision of the government of Pakistan”, the suspension of international flight operations has been extended up to 15 May at 23:59 local time.
In recent days, flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has been focusing its attention on repatriating Pakistanis from overseas, including those from the United Arab Emirates. The airline has also slashed fares from Dubai to six destinations in Pakistan, to help with the Pakistani government’s repatriation efforts.
However, these repatriation flights are not utilising the airline’s entire fleet. Cirium fleets data indicate that PIA’s fleet consists of 33 aircraft, of which 11 are in service. Eight lessors have exposure to PIA to the tune of 20 aircraft.
Pakistan has 13,328 confirmed coronavirus cases and 281 deaths as of 27 April, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Neighbouring India, which had 27,892 confirmed coronavirus cases and 881 deaths, began to ease some lockdown restrictions in parts of the country over the weekend. For example, shops in rural areas can reopen with half of their workers, who must wear masks and observe social distancing.
However, domestic and international flights remain grounded until at least 3 May. Hardeep Singh Puri, the country’s civil aviation minister, said in a 20 April Twitter post that flight restrictions would be lifted “once we are confident that spread of the virus has been controlled and it poses no danger to our country and people” and reiterated that no decision has yet been taken about when to reopen flights.
India’s island neighbour Sri Lanka, which has 523 confirmed cases and seven deaths, today reversed plans to end its coronavirus-related lockdown, extending it until 4 May after a spike in infections, reports the AFP.
SriLankan Airlines has a fleet of 26 aircraft, 20 of which are in storage. The flag carrier’s entire fleet is leased from six different lessors, Cirium fleets data show.