After reviewing the current situation of Covid-19 pandemic and looking at the growth of domestic air travel in the country, the government has announced to restore scheduled domestic air operations in the country without any capacity restrictions from October 18. With this, airlines can operate flights of their pre-Covid domestic services. Airlines are currently operating at 85 per cent capacity since September 18 when the government last reviewed capacity from 72.5 per cent.
The civil aviation ministry said the decision was taken after taking in view the current status of scheduled domestic operations viz-a-viz passenger demand for air travel. On Monday, airlines carried about 266,000 passengers on 2307 flights across the country.
“The airlines/airport operators shall, however, ensure that the guidelines to contain the spread of Covid are strictly adhered to and Covid appropriate behavior is strictly enforced by them during the travel,” the order said.
After a complete ban on scheduled domestic flights during the nationwide lockdown in 2020, flight operations resumed after a two-month gap with a capacity of 33 per cent capacity of what they used to operate before Covid-19 pandemic. Going forward, the government gradually increased the capacity to 80 per cent in December 2020 when the number of daily Covid-19 cases dipped. However, the capacity was again reduced to 50 per cent in June 2021 owing to second wave of the pandemic. Since then, the capacity has only been increasing.
The move is expected to provide much-needed relief to airlines who have been demanding to remove the restrictions on capacity as well as capping on air fares. Domestic air travel in India has made rapid strides with increased consumer confidence, dipping virus infections and intent to explore domestic destinations in absence of many options for outbound travel. The ongoing festive season has only increased the demand for air travel when a large number of travellers are moving from one part of the country to another.