India allows domestic flights to fly at full capacity

The government's move ahead of the Indian festive season comes

  
India's Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel is seen (L) during a visit to the newly constructed Terminal 3 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi July 2, 2010. The terminal, one of the world's largest, will be inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 3. Image for illustrative purposes.

India's Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel is seen (L) during a visit to the newly constructed Terminal 3 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi July 2, 2010. The terminal, one of the world's largest, will be inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 3. Image for illustrative purposes.

REUTERS/B Mathur

BENGALURU- Domestic flights in India will fly at full capacity from Oct. 18, India's civil aviation ministry said on Tuesday, as it lifted one of the major restrictions on the industry since the onset of the pandemic 18 months ago.

The government's move ahead of the Indian festive season comes as a boon to the struggling domestic carriers, including IndiGo and SpiceJet Ltd, which were starting to see some improvements in passenger traffic due to a drop in COVID-19 infections in most states.

In August, regulatory data showed that passenger growth jumped 136.6% as the government started to ease COVID-related travel restrictions. 

"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," the ministry said in an order.

Airlines including IndiGo, SpiceJet and Vistara - a joint venture of Tata Group and Singapore Airlines - were allowed to resume partial operations in May 2020 with limited capacity after a two-month halt on operations to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Since partial resumption, air travel has faced limitations such as ticket pricing restrictions, protective suits and face shields for flight attendants and passengers as well as curbs on serving food on planes.

The Indian aviation sector has been among the worst hit since the pandemic began, with rating firm ICRA projecting the industry to log a net loss of 250 billion to 260 billion rupees ($3.31 billion to $3.44 billion) in FY2022. 

However, competition is set to heat up in the industry as Jet Airways plans to restart operations in the first quarter of 2022 and as billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala backed Akasa Air expects to take to the skies next year. 

($1 = 75.4750 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Chandini Monnappa in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva) ((Chandini.M@thomsonreuters.com; +918061822697;))


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