Domestic flights' cap would be increased to 70-75 pc of pre-COVID levels as traffic surges: Govt

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New Delhi, Nov 5 (PTI) 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 the passenger traffic surges, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA) said on Thursday.

The ministry had said last week that the Indian airlines can operate maximum 60 per cent of their pre-COVID domestic passenger flights till February 24 next year due to the prevailing coronavirus situation.

In a press release on Thursday, the ministry said, 'MOCA is monitoring traffic everyday, and it is expected that the traffic would further pickup because of the festival season and as passenger traffic increases, the upper cap would be revised to 70-75 per cent of normal capacity in the coming days.' The MOCA said 2.05 lakh passengers travelled in domestic flights on November 1.

The ministry had informed the 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 2359 hrs on February 24, 2021 or until further orders' due to the 'prevailing situation of COVID-19'.

The ministry had resumed domestic passenger services from May 25, after a gap of two months due to the coronavirus-triggered 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.

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

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 (CCO) 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 due to 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. PTI DSP RDM RDM

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