The government has lifted restrictions on the number of flights that airlines can operate starting Monday, removing the 85% cap as India’s festive season gets into full swing. People are increasingly travelling by air as Covid numbers recede and more people get vaccinated.
“After review of the current status of scheduled domestic operations vis-a-vis passenger demand for air travel in terms of purpose specified in the initial order... it has been decided to restore the scheduled domestic air operations with effect from October 18 without any capacity restrictions,” the civil aviation ministry said in an order. Fare restrictions are still in place but “we are monitoring on a daily basis and a decision on it may come”, said a senior government official.
The capacity restriction was imposed in May 2020, at 33% in the beginning, as the aviation industry resumed operations after the nationwide lockdown began in the last week of March due to the Covid outbreak. Domestic passengers have risen steadily in the past few months and numbers are set to spike in the approach to Diwali and through the New Year.
"Our load factors (percentage of seats filled per flight) for the industry as a whole hit 80% last week, which is a sign of revival in passenger demand," said an airline executive. "The move to lift restrictions is timely and will help the sector."
The country’s biggest carrier IndiGo welcomed the move.
"We believe that with recent pent-up demand combined with the upcoming festive season, it will be great to operate flights on pre-pandemic levels," it said in a release.