Domestic airlines now can operate passenger flights without capacity restrictions, the Civil Aviation Ministry said Tuesday. The new order comes into effect from Monday, October 18.
Airlines and airport operators must, however, the ministry said, “ensure guidelines to contain the spread of COVID-19 are strictly adhered to and Covid-appropriate behaviour is strictly enforced”.
The ministry said capacity restrictions had been removed after a review of the demand for air travel.
On October 9, airlines operated 2,340 flights, or 71.5 per cent of their combined pre-COVID capacity.
Earlier this month credit ratings agency ICRA said domestic air passenger traffic increased by two to three pre cent between August and September – up from 67 lakh to 69 lakh.
In September the government had increased capacity restrictions from 72.5 per cent to 85 per cent.
The government resumed domestic flight operations in May last year after a two-month break.
Airlines were initially allowed to operate a maximum of 33 per cent of all pre-Covid routes.
That cap was gradually increased to 80 per cent by December last year.
Occupancy rates, however, were reduced to 50 per cent in June this year after the country was battered by a second wave of infections and deaths.
The Civil Aviation Ministry said the decision had been taken “in view of the sudden surge in the number of active COVID-19 cases… decrease in passenger traffic and the passenger load…”
As caseloads stabilised the cap was increased to 65 per cent and then to 72.5 per cent in August.
The pandemic and the lockdown (both domestic and international) affected the aviation sector badly, with airlines losing billions of dollars.
However, with the easing of caseloads and a gradual resurgence of the economy, the long-term prospects seem brighter, as evinced by billionaire investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala’s entry to this space.
Air Akasa yesterday received clearance from the Aviation Ministry and expects to start flying next year.
With input from PTI