September 19, 2021 1:10:24 am
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has relaxed the capacity and fare restrictions in place for domestic flights in line with the growing air traffic and the upcoming onset of the festivals season. Airlines will now be able to schedule up to 85 per cent of their pre-Covid flights, compared with the 72.5 per cent capacity they were able to deploy till Saturday. In addition to this, the applicability period for the fare ceiling and floor imposed by the government, has been reduced to a 15-day rolling period, compared with a 30-day rolling period earlier.
Since the reopening of domestic aviation in May 2020, after the initial two-month lockdown, the Centre has regulated the number of flights airlines can operate on domestic routes to prevent an overburden on the local infrastructure involved with healthcare activities. Initially, the cap on the number of flights was 33 per cent of the pre-Covid schedule, and this was gradually increased to 80 per cent till the second wave of Covid19 hit. After that, the government had reduced it to 50 per cent and then relaxed it to 60 per cent, 72.5 per cent, and now 85 per cent.
Similar to the restriction on flight capacity, the government has also regulated the fare bands in which the airlines can sell flight tickets. These are regulated by the imposition of a minimum and maximum fare on seven buckets of sectors classified on the basis of flight duration. The government has also from time to time raised the fare limitations to allow airlines to accommodate the increase in fuel prices.
As per an order issued by the civil aviation ministry, a copy of which was reviewed by The Indian Express, the minimum and maximum fare shall be charged by airlines on a 15-day rolling cycle from the date of booking. So, for example, an airline will have to offer a fare in the said bucket only for 15 days ahead of the date of booking. Therefore, if someone is booking a flight on September 20, fare bands shall be applicable only on flights being offered for booking till October 5. Any booking was done on September 20 for travel after October 5 will not be controlled by these fare limitations. Similarly, any booking done on September 21 for travel up to October 6 will be controlled by the fare bands, and so on.
“This is a welcome order as it will give us more flexibility to operate flights for the upcoming festivals season, when traffic rate is usually the highest during a year. We are hoping that as the number of domestic air travellers increases, the government will allow airlines to operate with 100 per cent capacity. The fare band relaxation will allow people to plan travel within 15 days now.
Earlier a 30-day period was blocked with high fares as per the government-imposed buckets,” an executive with a low-cost airline said.
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