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Airlines can operate 85% of pre-Covid domestic flights: Aviation Ministry – Mint

Ministry of Civil Aviation has allowed Indian airlines to operate domestic flights at a maximum of 85 per cent of their pre-Covid capacity from Saturday. Last month, the ministry had allowed 72.5 per cent of pre-Covid domestic flights to resume.

In its latest order, the civil aviation ministry has modified its August 12 order, stating that the “72.5 per cent capacity may be read as 85 per cent capacity”. The fresh order also read that further opening up of domestic airspace will be effective immediately, and will remain applicable till further orders.

Also Read: IndiGo to start 38 new domestic flights in September to boost domestic network

When the government had resumed the scheduled domestic flights on May 25 last year after a two-month break, the ministry had allowed the carriers to operate not more than 33 per cent of their pre-Covid domestic services. This cap was gradually increased to 80 per cent by December 2020, which remained in effect till June 1, 2021.

On May 28, it was decided reduce the operational capacity from 80 to 50 per cent from June 1 onwards “in view of the sudden surge in the number of active Covid-19 cases across the country, decrease in passenger traffic and the passenger load (occupancy rate) factor.”

The 50 per cent cap was in effect till July 5, beyond which it was relaxed to 65 per cent. On August 12, the ministry decided to allow 72.5 per cent of pre-Covid flights to run across the country which had been applicable till now.

Also Read: Jet Airways to start domestic flights early next year, starts hiring process

In a separate order today, the Aviation Ministry said that the lower and upper limits on airfares will remain for 15 days at any given time. The airlines will be free to charge without any limits from 16th day onwards, it added. Since August 12 this year, this roll-over period was of 30 days and the airlines have been charging without limits from 31st day onwards.

“If the current date is September 20, then the fare band shall be applicable till October 4. Any booking done on September 20 for travel on or after October 5 shall not be controlled by fare bands. On the following day, that is, if the current date is September 21, then the fare band shall be in force till October 21 and for travel on or after October 6, the fare bands shall not be applicable,” the ministry illustrated in its order.

India had imposed lower and upper limits on air fares based on flight duration when services were resumed on May 25, 2020. The lower caps were imposed to help the airlines that have been struggling financially due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions. The upper caps were imposed so that passengers are not charged huge amounts when the demand for seats is high.

Domestic air travel became costlier on August 12 this year as the civil aviation ministry had raised the lower as well as upper caps on fares by 9.83 to 12.82 per cent.

The August 12 order also mentioned that the limits on airfares will remain in place for 30 days at any given time. Today, the ministry modified the August 12 order, replacing the word “30 days” with “15 days”.

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