New Delhi: Airlines can operate domestic flights without any capacity restriction from October 18 onwards, the Ministry of Civil Aviation announced on Tuesday, keeping in mind the "passenger demand for air travel".
The carriers have been operating 85 per cent of their pre-COVID domestic services since September 18, according to an order issued by the ministry.
The capacity cap stood at 72.5 per cent between August 12 and September 18, 65 per cent between July 5 and August 12 and 50 per cent between June 1 and July 5.
On October 9, the Indian carriers operated 2,340 domestic flights, which is 71.5 per cent of their total pre-COVID capacity.
The ministry stated in its order that "it has been decided to restore the scheduled domestic air operations with effect from October 18, 2021, without any capacity restriction".
The order noted that the decision was taken "after a review of the current status of scheduled domestic operations viz-a-viz passenger demand for air travel".
When the government resumed the scheduled domestic flights on May 25 last year after a two-month break, the ministry had allowed the carriers to operate not more than 33 per cent of their pre-Covid services.
The cap was gradually increased to 80 per cent by December 2020.
The 80-per cent cap remained in place till June 1 this year.
The May 28 decision to bring down the cap from 80 to 50 per cent from June 1 onwards was taken "in view of the sudden surge in the number of active COVID-19 cases across the country, decrease in passenger traffic and the passenger load (occupancy rate) factor", the ministry had said.
Reacting to the announcement, India's largest carrier IndiGo stated: "It is a welcome move as we believe that with recent pent-up demand combined with the upcoming festive season, it will be great to operate flights on pre-pandemic levels. We are quite bullish about the overall growth and demand for domestic travel."
Another private carrier, Vistara, also welcomed the decision.
"Vistara welcomes the government's decision to remove the capacity cap. We believe that it will be helpful in accelerating recovery from the severe impacts of the pandemic as demand continues to grow, especially with the growing confidence in air travel and the much awaited festive season," a spokesperson of the airline said.
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