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Govt allows 100% flight capacity on domestic airlines, relaxes fare cap
The domestic airlines will be able to operate with full pre-covid flight capacity, up from the current 85% limit, with effect from October 18 as the covid situation has improved. The Aviation Ministry has also relaxed the fare cap on airfares. However, the covid guidelines will have to be strictly followed. Besides, serving or selling of meals on less than a two-hour journey will not be allowed.

NEW DELHI, Oct 13: The flight capacity restrictions imposed on domestic airlines by the Government in view of the covid pandemic have been removed as the situation has improved. The restrictions were enforced in May last year when the flights resumed after being shut in March when the epidemic started spreading. Now the airlines will be able to operate with full pre-covid capacity.

The epidemic is receding and the peak season for air travel is starting. Therefore, the Civil Aviation Ministry on Tuesday allowed flight operations with 100% capacity from October 18.

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 capacity.

However, the order said 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." There will also be a less restrictive maximum and minimum fare cap on airfare. Besides, serving or selling of meals on less than a two-hour journey will not be allowed.

Following the second wave of covid, on June 1 the passenger limit was placed at 50% which was raised to 72.5% on August 12 and 85% with effect from September 18.

The Ministry on September 18 also tweaked the price cap formula letting airlines set fares for travel beyond 15 days. Previously the price cap formula was applicable on tickets up to 30 days from the booking date. The relaxations enabled airlines to operate more flights and push up passenger loads even as the festive season was starting next month. During August the air traffic picked up to 6.7 million, a rise of 34%, with an average occupancy of 70%.

On October 9, the airlines operated 2,340 flights or 71.5% of their combined pre-covid capacity, according to PTI. The easing of capacity and pricing restrictions provided a welcome fillip to the domestic aviation industry, that has been reeling under heavy losses due to covid.

According to the CEO of the largest Indian domestic airline, Ronojoy Dutta, the Government deciding the fare and putting capacity restriction will not make the commercial airlines viable. The private operators of India’s largest airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore had also reportedly conveyed to the Government that private enterprises cannot run airlines if the Government is fixing the ticket fares.

Meanwhile, the suspension of scheduled international flights has been extended to October 31.

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