Government lifts cap on number of flights airlines can operate
Relief to passengers from high fares amid festive season.
In a move that is likely to bring relief to passengers from the skyrocketing air fares this festive season, the Government on Tuesday allowed airlines to operate 100% of their pre-COVID flights from October 18.
This is the first time the Government has lifted the cap on the number of flights airlines can operate since the resumption of domestic flights on May 25, 2020. Over the past 18 months, the Government has been regulating the number of flights airlines can operate in tandem with passenger demand by imposing a cap of 30% to 85%. At present, airlines are allowed to operate 85% of the pre-COVID flight schedule approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
“After review of the current status of scheduled domestic operations vis-a-vis passenger demand for air travel … it has been decided to restore the scheduled domestic air operations with effect from 18.10.2021 without any capacity restriction,” an order from the Ministry of Civil Aviation read.
With the Durga Puja and Navaratri festivities beginning, last weekend saw massive crowds at two of the biggest airports in the country — New Delhi and Mumbai. This compelled both airports to announce reopening of passenger terminal buildings which had thus far remained shut in view of modest travel demand.
Saturday also saw the total number of air travellers breach the three-lakh mark for the first time since the COVID-19 second wave. This is 70% of pre-COVID numbers at nearly 4.25 lakh domestic passengers per day.
A cap on capacity amid rising demand led to airfares skyrocketing. A Delhi-Bengaluru flight booked in the next three weeks will cost ₹12,900 to ₹14,900; a Delhi-Patna flight booked in the next three weeks will cost ₹9,600 to ₹10,300 and a Chennai-Delhi flight in the same period costs ₹13,700 to ₹14,700. Airfares taper down after Deepavali on November 4.
“It is a welcome move as we believe that with recent pent-up demand, combined with the coming festive season, it will be great to operate flights on pre-pandemic levels. We are bullish about the overall growth and demand for domestic travel,” IndiGo said in a statement.
“Recently, the market has seen a great bounce-back to over three lakh daily air travellers. So, the numbers support the government move to add capacity. A cap of 85% would have led to capacity constraints and higher airfares on peak routes as demand is likely to shoot up further for Deepavali and New Year. So, in all it’s a great move for both passengers and airlines,” said Aloke Bajpai, Group CEO and Co-founder, ixigo.
“With the festive season round the corner, we believe that the measure is well-timed and a strong step in boosting the country’s travel and tourism sentiments. The strong vaccination drive and a decline in active cases have led to a positive travel sentiment, and this newly announced measure is set to further enable the safe and seamless recovery of the sector,” according to Nishant Pitti, CEO and co-founder, EaseMyTrip.com.