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Cap on domestic flights to remain at 80% of pre-Covid levels till March

Passengers wearing protective face masks wait to exit upon arrival at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport after India cancelled all flights from the UK. (REUTERS)Premium
Passengers wearing protective face masks wait to exit upon arrival at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport after India cancelled all flights from the UK. (REUTERS)

  • The Civil Aviation Ministry had set the 80% limit on airlines on December 3, 2020, without specifying till what date it would remain in place
  • Earlier, Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said that the price band on domestic flights are expected to be discontinued soon as flight services are reaching pre-Covid levels in the country

Amid Covid-19, the government on Thursday said that the number of domestic flights that airlines are permitted to operate will remain at 80% of their pre-Covid levels till 31 March or till the summer schedule begins.

The Civil Aviation Ministry had set the 80% limit on airlines on December 3, 2020, without specifying till what date it would remain in place.

The summer schedule begins at the end of March for all the airlines. Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) approves both the schedules - summer and winter - of all the airlines.

"As per the prevailing situation of COVID-19, the central government...directs the order dated December 3, 2020, shall remain in force till 2359 hrs on March 31, 2021 or till the date of commencement of summer schedule 2021, whichever is earlier or until further orders," the ministry's order said.

On Wednesday, Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said that the price band on domestic flights are expected to be discontinued soon as flight services are reaching pre-Covid levels in the country.

Terming the capping of airfares as an "extraordinary measure", Puri said, "Our effort...is always to open up a little ahead of the actual and potential traffic." The Union Minister was replying to questions raised in the Rajya Sabha session in the Parliament.

The ministry had resumed scheduled domestic passenger services from May 25, 2020, after a gap of two months due to the coronavirus lockdown. However, the airlines were allowed to operate 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. On November 11, it was increased to 70 per cent. On December, it was increased to 80 per cent.

Scheduled international passenger traffic continues to remain suspended in India since March 23, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, special international flights have been operating since July 2020 under air bubble arrangements formed with various countries.

Last month, Indian aviation regulator DGCA said a total of 6.3 crore domestic passengers travelled by air in 2020 56.29% lower than 2019.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to be felt on the Indian aviation sector as the regulator said that only 73.27 lakh people travelled by air domestically in December last year, which was 43.72 per cent lower than in the corresponding period of 2019.

The aviation sector has been significantly impacted due to the travel restrictions imposed in India and other countries in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

All airlines in India have taken cost-cutting measures such as pay cuts, leave without pay and firing of employees in order to tide over the crisis.

With agency inputs

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