The flight schedules of Indian domestic carriers are likely to be reduced soon. The passengers who have made reservations may have to consider making changes in their travel plans accordingly.
Unlike the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government is not imposing the limitations unilaterally. Domestic airlines have witnessed a substantial drop in passenger numbers as well as illness among crew members in the last fortnight, forcing many airlines to petition the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) to reinstate flight operations caps.
After Union civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia meets with airline CEOs, the government will announce the decision to reinstate cap on domestic airlines' capacity utilisation will be made, reported Moneycontrol. There are ongoing discussions between various Ministries regarding the cancellation of flights. According to the report, the MoCA and DGCA have not received any indication that they want to curtail airline operations.
If the need arises, the government wants to establish gradual capacity usage caps as part of the new COVID-19 norms. “The first capacity utilisation cap will be implemented if the country reports more than 50,000 instances each day,” Moneycontrol quoted an unnamed senior government official.
The government may cap Indian domestic airlines’ capacity
The industry insiders predict that the government may limit domestic capacity at 80% by the end of the week, down from the current 100%, owing to a surge in COVID-19 cases. The reports suggest that the government is likely to reinstate the domestic capacity cap to prevent larger airlines from monopolising market share.
Seat occupancy at various Indian domestic airlines was down to 55% from 70%, according to MoCA data. Indian airlines handled roughly 2,70,000 daily domestic passengers in the first week of January, down from an average of 3,50,000 daily passengers in December.
The airlines in India are also experiencing crew scheduling and rostering issues as many of their cabin crew and pilots have tested positive for COVID-19. The aviation regulator DGCA has recommended a 10-day quarantine for asymptomatic crew members and pilots, making it difficult for airlines to function at total capacity. There are high chances that the airlines will start cancelling flights to save money.