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India removes cap on domestic flight capacity for the first time since COVID-19 pandemic began

The government of India has announced that all of the domestic airlines in India will be allowed to operate flights at full-capacity from next week.

Removed

The Indian government on Tuesday announced that all of the domestic airlines in India will be allowed to operate flights at pre-COVID capacity from 18th October 2021. This means that airlines will not be subjected to any domestic capacity restrictions, which have been set at 85% since September. Additionally, the airlines will now also have the option to exceed pre-COVID capacity where there is demand.

Restrictions have been in place in India ever since airlines resumed domestic services on 25th May 2020 after the 1st lockdown. Airlines were forced to cap their domestic capacity to adhere to the rules.

The Indian government in a statement said:

After review of the current status of Scheduled Domestic Operations viz-a-viz passenger demand for air travel in terms of the purpose specified in the initial order dated May 21, 2020… it has been decided to restore the scheduled domestic air operations with effect from October 18, 2021 without any capacity restriction.

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Airlines will still have to follow some rules

While the capacity caps will be removed entirely, airlines will still have to follow some rules.

First of all, maximum and minimum fare caps will continue to remain. Fare caps, which were rolled out in May 2020, aim to protect passengers and airlines from unfair pricing strategies. The government, had hinted last month that it may remove price caps completely, they will stay in place for the time being.

Pradeep Kharola, former Secretary of India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation, said last month:

[Fare bands] will continue but in the last version we had made a significant change… The fare bands used to be applicable 30 days from today, but now we have come down to 15 days. Gradually, if you go on decreasing this – from 14 days, 13 days, 12 days – a day would come where fare bands would not be applicable. The process has started, but it will be a gradual one.

In addition to this, strict hygiene protocols will remain in airports and onboard flights to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The government of India said:

The airlines/airport operators shall, however, ensure that the guidelines to contain the spread of COVID are strictly adhered to and COVID-appropriate behavior is strictly enforced by them during travel.

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Indian airlines welcome the move

The airlines in India are clearly excited about the decision and have positively welcomed the news.

A Vistara spokesperson said:

Vistara welcomes the Government’s decision to remove the capacity cap. We believe that it will be helpful in accelerating recovery from the severe impacts of the pandemic as demand continues to grow, especially with the growing confidence in air travel and the much-awaited festive season.

A Indigo spokesperson said:

It is a welcome move as 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. We are quite bullish about the overall growth and demand for domestic travel.

As India heads towards a festive season, the timing to remove capacity cap could not be more perfect. Taking advantage of the festive season and the removal of capacity cap, Indian airlines are in for a treat and I am sure that they will take every opportunity to capitalise on the demand.

What do you think of Indian government’s decision to remove cap on domestic flight capacity? Let me know in the comments section below.

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