Airlines will be allowed to not just return to pre-pandemic levels but go beyond that as well depending on demand. This means that from winter schedule — that comes into effect from end of next month — airlines can have a full complement of domestic flights.
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However, apart from strictly following Covid protocols, a few other restrictions will continue to be applicable on domestic flights.
Minimum and maximum fare caps will continue to be applicable. Besides, there will be no serving or selling of meals on less than 2-hours of journey.
“After review of the current status of scheduled domestic operations viz-a-viz passenger demand for air travel… it has been decided to restore the scheduled domestic air operations with effect from October 18, 2021, without any capacity restriction,” the govt said in the official notification.
“The airlines/airport operators shall, however, ensure that the guidelines to contain the spread of Covid are strictly adhered to and Covid appropriate behaviour is strictly enforced by them during the travel,” the circular added.
The badly bleeding flight catering services have requested the government to lift restrictions on in-flight catering services as well.
India’s biggest inflight caterer, Tata Group’s TajSATS, has recently asked the government to allow resumption of meal services on all flights.
Since the onset of the second Covid wave, meal service or sale is not allowed on domestic flights of below 2 hour duration.
TajSATS CEO Manish Gupta recently told TOI that while the company has diversified into varied businesses like home and institutional meal deliveries, “these initiatives are not enough to support our large work force and capacities.”
Currently flight catering business in India is at 60% of pre-pandemic levels, recovering from a nadir of 21% last year.
“We have been trying to make up our losses by diversifying into other areas like institutional catering, home deliveries, supplying products like chocolates and sweets…. We have reduced our expenses in best way we could without implementing any layoffs, hoping for the business revival to happen soon,” Gupta had said.
Scheduled domestic and international flights were suspended in March last year in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Domestic flights were allowed to resume from May 25, 2020 at one-third of pre-Covid levels. Since then capacity deployment has changed depending on Covid conditions.
From next week, the restrictions will be relaxed and domestic flights can operate at full capacity.
International flights are being operated under air bubbles and Vande Bharat Mission.
However, with the government allowing foreign tourists on charters from this month and non-charters next month, airlines are wondering if the restrictions on international will also partially ease.
Watch Airlines to function with 100% capacity from Oct 18