The government has decided to start domestic scheduled operations in a calibrated manner with fare capping in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, says Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri. The schedued domestic operations, Singh said has further been increased from time to time based on the COVID-19 situation and traffic demand.
The minister pointed out that the capacity has been increased from 60 per cent to 70 per cent recently, in view of the festive season. “The COVID-19 situation and passenger data is being closely monitored and a decision to allow 100 per cent capacity would depend on the situation which may arise in near future,” he said. “We have already crossed 50 per cent of pre-COVID levels as far as the number of daily passengers is concerned. It is expected that we will reach pre-COVID level by the year end.”
In regards to recovery, Singh said the domestic civil aviation has been on the recovery mode since it opened on May 25. He said it has been steady and predictable. “We started with 30,000 passengers and a limit of 33 per cent on May 25,” Singh highlighted. “Today, we are 70 per cent and we have registered 2,25,000 passengers per day. Unless there are unforeseen developments and the behavior of the virus stays on predictable lines, domestic aviation could be at pre-COVID level by the end of the year, or by early first quarter of next calendar year.”
The aviation industy is hopeful for a further rise as there is a level of confidence in air travel as a relatively safe mode of travel. Singh observed that the resumption of international flights depends on three factors. “Domestic civil aviation crossing the 50 per cent mark, which we have achieved; the behavior of the virus as some cities in Europe are going through a very pronounced second wave,” he explained. “Lastly, vaccine. Once a vaccine is available, people will get the confidence to fly.” Singh also pointed out that it also depends on easing of entry restrictions in foreign countries.