Thursday, October 08, 2020

Hardeep Singh Puri mulls allowing domestic airlines to operate at 75% capacity

ddressing a press conference, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, on Thursday, mentioned that he expected domestic aviation to reach pre-Covid-19 levels by the year-end and the government would soon allow airlines to operate at 75% of their pre-Covid capacity in the country. From 30,000 passengers on May 25, the day the government re-started domestic flights, the number of passengers opting for air travel has grown to 1.76 lakh daily as of October 3, Puri added.

He also made it clear that it would seek parity in the operation of international flights and foreign airlines would not be allowed at the cost of homegrown air carriers. The unequivocal message from the government came after German airline Lufthansa suspended operations to India over a disagreement on the number of flights. “We are all for foreign carriers operating here. But I think the time has come for the message to go out loud and clear that it will not be at the cost of Indian carriers,” Puri told reporters here. He said that under the regulated arrangements of travel bubbles, India was insisting on near parity, if not total parity.

Under the travel bubble initiative, Lufthansa was operating 20 flights per week to India, while Air India could run only three per week, putting it at a disadvantage commercially. When Lufthansa submitted its October schedule for approval to the civil aviation regulator, the German airline was granted permission to operate seven flights a week. 

Most Indian travelers prefer to travel to hub airports in Europe and proceed to their destinations in the US, Canada, and other countries, under the sixth freedom rights.

“If the (bubble) arrangement is being carried out only for six freedom rights, then obviously we would want parity,” Puri said. He noted that Air India was operating 30 flights per week to the US as against 23 flights by American airlines to India.

08/10/20 Sagar Kulkarni/Deccan Herald

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