The aviation ministry on Saturday allowed airlines to sell domestic tickets based on market forces of demand and supply, without adhering to fare bands for travel beyond 15 days. As such, people will be able to get domestic air tickets at lower rates for travel beyond 15 days of booking.
The ministry said that the winter schedule comes into effect October-end and the industry is hoping that if COVID-19 remains under control with steady rising vaccination numbers, airlines may be allowed to return completely to pre-COVID domestic capacity. Airlines can now operate more domestic flights, up to 85% of their pre-pandemic capacity instead of the earlier 72.5%. This is the maximum capacity deployment allowed during the pandemic as before the second wave. The allowed highest domestic capacity was 80%.
The fare bands which were put in place last May when domestic flights were allowed to resume after a two-month suspension during the lockdown will continue for some time. With no date till when the fare bands will remain in force, the same shall remain applicable till the government withdraws the same.
It should be noted that during the pandemic, the government brought in fare bands to ensure that airlines don’t overcharge passengers and that airlines are either financially strong or are backed by big groups, such as Tata for Vistara and AirAsia India and Wadias for GoAir, don’t offer such low predatory fares that weaker airlines are unable to compete and shutdown.
Low cost carriers account for about 80% of domestic air travel. The thumb rule for budget flyers, as per ToI, in pre-COVID times was book early and get low fares – and closer to date of travel, the fares rise. The shorter window for which domestic fare bands are applicable will allow airlines to offer lower than the minimum fares for not so early birds. An official said there will be more bookings as people can be offered lower fares and airlines can get cash flow to sustain operations during these tough times.