Covid threatens to ground India's aviation industry

The pandemic has dealt a body blow to India's airlines, which had already been battling a broken pricing model and a domestic slowdown,
writes the BBC's Nidhi Rai in Mumbai.

"I have sold my house and moved into a small apartment because I could no longer afford to pay my home loan," says a former pilot who
wishes to remain anonymous.

The 38-year-old, who used to work for the state-run Air India, said he and his relatives were constantly harassed by the bank when he
began defaulting on his payments.

"Bankers even came to my house and it was embarrassing for me. So I gave up my house in a distress sale. It was heartbreaking."

There was a time when flying for Air India was a lucrative career. In 2011, senior pilots were earning as much as 10 million rupees which,
at the current exchange rate, amounts to more than $135,000 or £103,000.

But the country's flagship carrier is now bankrupt. It has been looking for a buyer for years - a prospect that has dimmed amid
the pandemic, reportedly forcing the government to even consider wiping the airline's $3.3bn debt-tag from the deal.

Air India is not the only one in trouble. Indian aviation - once a promising industry with aspirational jobs - has been floundering in recent
years. Seven airlines, including Jet Airways, India's oldest private carrier that was often hailed as a success story, shut shop in the past
decade. And now Covid-19 is threatening the rest, compounding the effect of years of high fuel prices, heavy taxes, low demand and
cut-throat competition.

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