Airlines can operate at 70-75% of pre-Covid levels, clarifies Centre

Airlines are expecting the Centre to lift restrictions to pre-Covid levels
The cap on the number of domestic flights that Indian airlines are permitted to operate would be increased to 70-75 per cent of their pre-Covid levels as passenger traffic surges, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA) said on Thursday.

Last week, the ministry said Indian airlines can operate only 60 per cent of their pre-Covid domestic passenger flight numbers. The rule was to apply till February 24, 2021, keeping in mind the pandemic. 

In a press release on Thursday, the ministry said: "MOCA is monitoring traffic everyday, and it is expected that the traffic would further pick up because of the festival season. As passenger traffic increases, the upper cap would be revised to 70-75 per cent of the normal capacity in coming days."

The ministry said 205,000 passengers travelled via domestic flights on November 1.

The ministry had informed airlines about the aforementioned 60 per cent limit through an official order on September 2, but it had not told them the period for which the cap would remain in place.

Last Thursday, the ministry issued a new order clarifying that the September 2 order "shall remain in force until 23:59 hours on February 24, 2021, or until further orders" due to the pandemic.

The ministry had resumed domestic passenger services from May 25, after a gap of two months, because of the lockdown. However, the airlines were allowed to operate at not more than 33 per cent of their pre-Covid domestic flights. On June 26, this was increased to 45 per cent and on September 2, it was further increased to 60 per cent.

Airlines are expecting that the government would further increase the cap on domestic flights so that they can reach pre-Covid levels soon.

For example, Vistara is expecting to operate 100 per cent of its pre-COVID domestic passenger flights by April next year, said its Chief Commercial Officer Vinod Kannan on Wednesday.

Currently, Vistara is operating around 55 per cent of its pre-Covid scheduled domestic passenger services.

Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in the country since March 23 because of the pandemic.

However, special international flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since May, and under bilateral air bubble pacts signed with various countries since July.

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