Airlines can fly at full capacity on domestic routes as Covid recedes


India to lift all domestic flight capacity curbs from Oct 18

Airlines can fly at full capacity on domestic routes from Oct. 18, as the government has decided to ease rules with the sharp decline in the number of Covid cases in the country. 

"The airlines/airport operators shall, however, ensure that the guidelines to contain the spread of COVID are strictly adhered to and COVID appropriate behaviour is strictly enforced," the civil aviation ministry said in its order.

The order stated that the decision was taken "after a review of the current status of scheduled domestic operations viz-a-viz passenger demand for air travel".

In August, regulatory data showed that passenger growth shot up 136.6% as the government started to ease COVID-related travel restrictions and the economy has picked up.

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The government's move ahead of the Indian festive season will help in the revival of airlines such as IndiGo and SpiceJet Ltd which have plunged into losses due to the sharp decline in passenger traffic amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Airlines were allowed to resume partial operations in May 2020 after a two-month grounding of operations to contain the spread of the coronavirus, but had to leave several seats empty to ensure social distancing on the planes.

The airlines have been operating 85 per cent of their pre-COVID domestic services since September 18. The limit had been gradually increased over the months from the 50 per cent limit that was in place till July 5 when airlines were flying with half their seats empty as there was a surge of coronavirus cases in the country. 

The May 28 decision to bring down the cap from 80 to 50 per cent from June 1 onwards was taken "in view of the sudden surge in the number of active COVID-19 cases across the country, decrease in passenger traffic and the passenger load factor", the ministry had said.

The situation has been gradually improving since then and on October 9, the Indian carriers operated 2,340 domestic flights, which is 71.5 per cent of their total pre-COVID capacity.