Govt. allows domestic airlines to operate at 100 per cent capacity

The move has been prompted by a decline in the intensity of the pandemic and rapidly surging passenger demand.

In what comes as a huge relief for the aviation industry, the central government has allowed domestic airlines to operate flights at 100 per cent of capacity from October 18. Currently, airlines are only allowed to deploy 85 per cent of their capacity. In making this announcement, the government has reiterated the mandate for airlines and passengers to strictly adhere to COVID mitigation guidelines.

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A resurgence in domestic travel has spurred this decision. Image: Shutterstock/PradeepGaurs.

This move comes on the back of enhanced demand from travellers seeking to put the pandemic-induced confinement behind them. The government’s successful vaccination programme and the ongoing festive season have only accelerated the trend. On October 10, more than three lakh passengers took to the skies – a figure that was only recorded in February 2021 – just before the devasting second wave of the pandemic struck.

It has been a yo-yo curve with respect to permitted airline capacity. Following the two-month lockdown in May 2020, airlines were allowed to operate at 33 per cent of capacity. This number climbed to 80 per cent as the country recovered from a moderate first wave. When the second wave arrived, capacity was quickly capped at 50 per cent. As the pandemic abated, the government gradually allowed up to 85 per cent capacity utilisation.

The removal of capacity restrictions does allow airlines greater flexibility in operations and demand management. But they are not completely ecstatic as the cap on airfares still remains in place.

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Flights at 100 per cent capacity will have a cascading impact on airfares. Image: Shutterstock/Kakoli Dey.

Reacting to the development, Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook India, says, “We are delighted and truly welcome the Government’s announcement permitting domestic carriers to operate at 100 per cent of their pre-Covid capacity from October 18. With the return of consumer confidence in air travel coupled with a surge in holiday demand for the festive season (across Dussehra-Diwali and then Christmas-Year end), the announcement could not have come at a better time. Additionally, the increased capacity will ease pressures on the supply side – with cascading impact on airfares. From a Corporate MICE perspective too, the increased capacity offers significant scope for domestic incentive groups serving to catalyze overall recovery for the travel and tourism industry.”

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