Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Domestic flights to remain capped at 60% till February 24

New Delhi: The government has decided to extend the 60% cap on deployment of domestic flights by schedule airlines till February 24, an extension of a further three months from the earlier deadline of November 24. Last week, the aviation ministry had decided to similarly extend domestic fare caps till February 24.

“Presently (the 60% cap on domestic capacity is) till February 24, 2021. But it can be revised, if needed,” said a senior aviation official. Domestic air traffic has been picking up after being allowed to resume on May 25 following a two-month Covid-induced lockdown. While May 25 had seen 30,000 people flying within India, this number had risen to 2 lakh on November 2.

Given the gradual and steady revival in domestic air travel, the aviation ministry had recently said it may soon hike the 60% to 75%. But now the 60% cap could remain till February 24, unless either that date is extended again or brought forward.

Earlier on Thursday (before this decision was known), Vistara chief commercial officer Vinod Kannan was asked if the decision to extend 60% cap was getting a bit delayed to catch the Diwali rush. “Given the land factors (aircraft occupancy) airlines have at this time, there is adequate capacity (to handle festive rush). The ministry s examining the issue of raising the cap further,” Kannan had said.

DGCA data for domestic flights in September, 2020, shows big airlines having a load factor ranging from SpiceJet’s 73% to Air India’s 57.9%. This basically means domestic flights are still flying with partially-filled planes and can accommodate more passengers when demand increases a little more as is expected in the coming holiday season.

With 60% of the originally approved summer schedule for domestic flight capacity allowed to be deployed, the DGCA had cleared a schedule for 12,983 weekly domestic flights covering 95 airports in winter 2020-21 — down 44.3% from 23,307 in winter 2019-20.

The schedule approved with the current cap of 60% has seen maximum drop in weekly domestic flights of SpiceJet — 1,957, down 55% from 4,316 last winter. This is followed by Air India — 1,126, down 50% from last winter’s 2,254; GoAir — 1,203, down 48% from 2,308; IndiGo — 6,006, down 42% from 10,310.

04/11/20 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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