Monday, July 05, 2021

Second wave ebbs: Government allows 15% more domestic flights

New Delhi: Indian carriers can now operate 15% more domestic flights with the government raising the cap on the same from 50% of pre-Covid level to 65% from Monday.

During the pandemic, the aviation ministry has been regulating both domestic fares and capacity. It has tweaked both as per Covid situation.

Now that the second wave is ebbing and daily cases have fallen, the domestic capacity — which was reduced from 80% of pre-Covid to 50% on June 1 — has been increased.

The past few days have seen a constant increase in daily domestic flyers, after dipping in April and May.

For instance, July 3 saw almost 1.6 lakh domestic flyers — a figure that dipped to less than 50,000 on several days during peak second wave in May.

The order issued by ministry joint secretary S K Mishra says 65% capacity is applicable till this month-end.

The aviation ministry had last week sought views from airport operators and airlines on raising capacity. Most stakeholders, barring one or two airlines in financially critical condition, had sought being allowed to operate more domestic flights.

In a tweet, the ministry said: “Considering increasing demand for domestic air travel, the capacity of domestic civil aviation operations will be increased to 65% from 50% from (Monday) upto July 31, 2021, or until further orders.”

A senior airline official said: “The pandemic erupted early year and there is no sign of it going away completely in a hurry. It is best the state, which promises minimum government and maximum governance, leave aviation to market forces. Airlines should be free to deploy capacity as per demand depending on pandemic situation. Fuel prices are on fire and the fare caps also need to go now if airlines have to survive.”

The entire travel industry, including airlines and hotels, realise that their survival rests on domestic travellers as international travel could take a long time to open up both ways — Indian tourists being allowed in most countries and foreign tourists being allowed into India. This fact is recognised by government agencies too.

05/07/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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