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New Delhi: Scheduled airlines in India will be able to operate up to 85% of their pre-covid capacity on domestic flights, up from 72.5%, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) said in a circular on Saturday.

The order shall be applicable from 18 September until further notice, it added.

A copy of the circular has been reviewed by Mint.

Indian airlines resumed domestic operations on 25 May 2020, after being grounded for two months during a government-backed lockdown to contain the pandemic. At the time, airlines were allowed to operate only up to a third of their total capacity, with the cap later being increased to 45% and then to 60%. This was further increased to 80%.

Air traffic picked after lockdown was lifted in May 2020, and rose every month till March 2021 before the second wave of covid-19 hit the country. During May, the government set a cap stating that India will be able to sell seats up to 50% of their total capacity on domestic flights citing high number of covid-19 infections and as travel demand fell during the second wave of the covid-19 pandemic.

However, air passenger traffic has gradually risen since then.

Domestic air passenger traffic saw significant growth last month with the easing of lockdown restrictions following the decline in covid-19 cases, which gave confidence to more people to travel by air.

Around 6.7 million passengers took to the skies in August, compared to 5.01 million in July, according to latest data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

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