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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Lesser flights, higher ticket prices: Why has govt made changes to domestic air travel?

The government has cut the capacity ceiling on flights and also increased the lower limit of the fare bands. Why the changes?

Written by Pranav Mukul , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 2, 2021 1:44:25 pm
The Lucknow airport wears a deserted look. (Express Photo: Vishal Srivastav)

Taking into account air passenger numbers falling dramatically over the last three months because of the second Covid-19 surge, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has reduced the capacity that can be deployed by airlines on domestic routes to 50 per cent of pre-Covid levels from June 1 onward. This is compared to the existing 80 per cent. This is the first time the government has cut the capacity ceiling on flights since domestic operations resumed on May 25 last year, following a two-month lockdown.

In addition, the government has also increased the lower limit of the fare bands issued for domestic flights.

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What does the reduction in flight capacity mean for passengers?

With the new rules, airlines will be able to deploy only 50 per cent of the number of flights they operated during Summer Schedule of 2020. This means several flights across the board would see cancellations June 1 onward.

For those already booked to fly on or after June 1, the airline will either book the passengers on alternate flights or offer a refund or a free flight change for a later date. Most domestic airlines are now offering a change of flight without an additional fee that is charged in the usual course.

What are the new fare restrictions?

On account of the rise in fuel costs, the government has increased the fare limits. Now, the lower limit for flights under 40 minutes of duration will be increased from Rs 2,300 to Rs 2,600 — a hike of 13 per cent.

Similarly, flights with a duration between 40 minutes and 60 minutes will have a lower limit of Rs 3,300 instead of the current Rs 2,900.

Domestic flights of duration between 60-90, 90-120, 120-150, 150-180 and 180-210 minutes will have lower limits of Rs 4,000, Rs 4,700, Rs 6,100, Rs 7,400 and Rs 8,700, respectively.

Why the changes?

The Civil Aviation Ministry takes stock of the passenger traffic situation towards the end of every month and decides the further course of action depending on how the market is shaping up. Domestic air travel has drastically reduced in the country because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On February 28, around 3.13 lakh domestic air passengers travelled in India, while on May 25, domestic flights operated in India with approximately 39,000 passengers.

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