With a surge in COVID-19 vaccination across the country, the government has decided to ease capacity restrictions on local airlines from October 18, noting a surge in festive travel demand. This comes in the backdrop of domestic carriers, IndiGo and SpiceJet, recording improvements in passenger traffic.
The Civil Aviation Ministry in an order stated that 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.
Indian airlines resumed domestic operations on May 25, 2020, after being grounded for two months during the nationwide lockdown. At that time, airlines were allowed to fill only a third of the capacity, with the clap later being raised to 45% and 60%. IndiGo, SpiceJet and Vistara were allowed to resume partial operations in May 2020 with limited capacity after a two-month halt on operations to curb the spread of COVID-19. Air travel, since partial resumption, has faced limitations such as ticket pricing restrictions, protective suits and face shields for flight attendants and passengers, as well as curbs on serving food on the aircraft.
In December 2020, it was further increased to 80%. Regulatory data, in August, showed that passenger growth jumped 136.6% as the government started to ease the COVID-related travel restrictions.
Broking firm ICICI Securities, in its report, stated that the removal of the cap comes at a time when domestic air traffic is on the rise. “The average number of daily fliers rose to 262,000 in a week to October 9 from 240,000 the week before,” it said. “For the week ending October 9, the average number of departures increased to 2,225 vs. 2,080 in the previous week. The number of fliers per departure rose to 118 versus 115 in the prior week.”