“We have a detailed and established Covid-time protocol for safe air travel right from the time passengers enter a terminal at origin to the time they exit from destination airport. Air travel remains one of the safest mode of transport in this pandemic. Passengers are realising that and more people are taking to the skies again. Accordingly, the number of domestic flights airlines can operate daily has been increased to 60% of the original summer schedule, that translates to about a maximum of 1,900-2,000 daily flights within the country,” Kumar said.
The government took this decision as the number of domestic passengers has been steadily rising in past few weeks. Importantly three major metros — Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai — have started lifting restriction on domestic flights.
More on Covid-19
Mumbai has just allowed 100 daily schedule domestic departures and as many arrivals by doubling the previously permitted capacity. Chennai airport will also be doubling daily domestic flights to 50 from earlier 25. West Bengal has from this month allowed flights between Kolkata and six cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Chennai and Ahmedabad — three days a week, after stopping them on July 6.
According to the aviation ministry, September 1, 2020, saw over 1.2 lakh domestic passengers on 1,121 flights. Domestic flights had resumed after a two-month suspension on May 25. The first day of resumed operations had seen less than 40,000 fly on 532 flights. In three months since then, the number of domestic passengers has tripled.
“People are gaining confidence as they take to the skies again. They are finding that airport operators and airlines have taken all possible steps to minimise the possibility of getting infected. People gaining confidence to fly again and states lifting restriction in the reason why the government has lifted the 45% cap on domestic operations that was to remain till November 24 and allowed 60% capacity deployment with immediate effect,” said an official.
International flights, for now, will continue under the air bubbles India is creating with several countries and on Vande Bharat Mission flights. Earlier the government had said it will consider resuming schedule international flights when domestic capacity reached 50-55% mark. “As of now, no call has been taken on that. But we are constantly increasing the list of air bubble countries and VBM operations. Schedule international flights will begin as soon as they can under the current pandemic circumstances,” said an official.