No restrictions on domestic flight capacity from October 18: Centre
Amid the improving COVID-19 situation in the country, the Civil Aviation Ministry on Tuesday permitted domestic airlines to function at their full capacity from October 18 onwards. An order from the Ministry said that the decision was taken keeping in mind the "passenger demand for air travel." At present, domestic flights are operating at 85% of their capacity. Here are more details.
In its order, the Ministry said the decision to remove the restriction on capacity was taken "after a review of the current status of scheduled domestic operations vis-a-vis passenger demand for air travel." However, it added that the airlines and airport operators must "ensure that the guidelines to contain the spread of COVID-19 are strictly adhered to, and COVID-19 appropriate behavior is strictly enforced."
Apart from strict COVID-19 protocols, some other restrictions will also continue to remain. These include the maximum and minimum fare caps on airfare, and no serving or selling of meals on less than a two-hour journey.
India's aviation sector incurred heavy losses due to the pandemic and the lockdown. On October 9, airlines operated 2,340 flights or 71.5% of their combined pre-COVID-19 capacity, according to PTI. However, the industry has been able to feel a sense of relief with the improving COVID-19 situation in the country and the gradual resurgence of the economy.
Separately, the credit rating agency ICRA had said earlier this month that the domestic air passenger traffic increased by 2-3% between August and September. According to the ICRA, air passengers increased from 67 lakh to 69 lakh during this period.
The central government has been gradually increasing the domestic flight capacity since July this year. The limit on permissible capacity stood at 50% between June 1 and July 5. Between July 5-August 12, it was increased to 65%. The same was increased to 72.5% between August 12-September 18. Since September 18, domestic flights have been operating at 85% of their capacity.
Domestic flight operations in India came to a standstill in March last year due to the outbreak of COVID-19. In May 2020, domestic flight operations were resumed with a 33% capacity. The same was gradually increased to 80% by December 2020. However, it was reduced to 50% again in June this year as the brutal second wave of COVID-19 hit India.