New Delhi: Indian airlines are seeking an interest-free credit line of at least USD 1.5 billion for the aviation sector that is facing hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday. Also Read - Coronavirus Update: Low Level of This Nutrient Can Increase Death Risk in COVID-19 Patients

Airlines have sought relief from the government by asking that banks and financial institutions may be directed by the Centre to defer repayments of loans to the aviation industry by six months, Puri said in his written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha. Also Read - Lucknow's Iconic Indian Coffee House Will Now Serve 'Kadha' to Boost Immunity Amid Pandemic

The aviation sector has been hugely impacted due to travel restrictions imposed amid the coronavirus pandemic. Consequently, all airlines in India have deployed cost cutting measures like pay cuts and layoffs during the last few months. Also Read - COVID-19 Patients May Have Higher Risk of Kidney Damage: Study

According to Puri, some of the other relief measures sought by the airlines are, “Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) to be brought under GST; Excise duty on ATF to be reduced from 11 per cent to zero per cent; ATF price to be set every fortnight instead of on a monthly basis; Government to facilitate an additional unsecured credit of 60 days of consumption of ATF by the oil marketing companies.”

Some other relief measures sought are, “An interest free line of credit to be set up for the aviation sector of at least USD 1.5 billion; Banks and Financial Institutions may be asked to defer repayment of loans to aviation industry by six months and should not be treated as Non Performing Assets (NPA),” Puri said.