The Indian aviation sector has something to cheer about, at last. The Government of India has lifted all flight restrictions on both the domestic and international sectors. Travel Radar has been closely following up developments in Indian aviation.
From October 18, the government is removing all capacity restrictions on domestic flights. We remind our readers that the capacity restrictions indicate how many flights (in terms of percentage) an airline could operate. These rules never restricted the airlines from filling up the aeroplane to its total capacity. The ‘middle-seat-vacant’ plan never really took off. The airlines, on their part, provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suits to passengers (as per need) to satisfy the ‘COVID appropriate behaviour guidelines’ issued by the government.
Let us take a peek into domestic passenger data in the figure below (Data – DGCA’s monthly and annual reports). The August data shows a significant increase over the same period last year, but still well below the 2019 level. The year-to-date August growth is 14.78% higher in 2021 when compared to 2020 but 42% lower than in 2019. However, the rapid increase in travelling public is encouraging. Many airports confirm that passenger footfalls have increased and will reach total capacity levels sooner than later.
International scheduled flights will be back to their regular schedules with effect from November 15, 2021. Between October 15 and November 15, the government has permitted tourists to enter the country if they travel by chartered flights. All flights under the bubble agreements are considered chartered flights. So, essentially, this one-month period is to set normal operations back in place.
The government of India has started issuing tourist visas, and visa on arrival facilities will also be fully operational by mid-November. The finance Minister Ms Seetharaman in June, this year, had announced that the first 500,000 tourist visas would be issued free of charge. Free visa is to encourage tourists to come to India.
Airfares remain regulated by the government. The industry is pushing the government for the removal of this last restriction as well.