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Indian airlines flew 15% more domestic passengers in December than in the previous month as carriers benefited from an easing of cap on seat capacity and travellers felt more confident about flying than before.

As many as 7.33 million passengers travelled by air in December, up from 6.35 million in the preceding month, data issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Friday showed.

The number of passengers, however, fell 43.7% from a year earlier in December.

On an annualized basis, India’s scheduled airlines carried 630.11 million domestic passengers in calendar year 2020, a 56.3% decline.

The DGCA allowed airlines to sell seats up to 80% of an aircraft’s pre-covid capacity on domestic flights from December, increasing the limit from 70%. The regulator has gradually eased curbs on seat capacity since it lifted a two-month ban on domestic flights on 25 May.

Scheduled international commercial flights, however, remain suspended, at least till 31 January. The restriction does not apply to international all-cargo flights, those under bilateral air bubble agreements, and those specifically approved by the aviation regulator.

The passenger load factor (PLF) of major scheduled commercial airlines was 66-78% in December, around the same levels recorded in the previous month but way below the 80-92% recorded by airlines in the same period of 2019. PLF measures the capacity utilization of transport services, including airlines.

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