India to resume 33% of domestic flights, prices capped

There seems to be some relief for the Indian aviation industry, as the Government of India has allowed for a resumption of 1/3 of domestic flight operations. This decision comes as a major relief to many Indian airlines which were struggling to stay afloat.

IndiGo Airbus A320neo registered VT-IZJ. Photo by Andrew Pries | AeroNewsX

Indian Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted: "Domestic civil aviation operations will recommence in a calibrated manner from Monday 25th May 2020. All airports and air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from 25th May."

The commercial flight operations in India was suspended two months back, when one of the world’s largest democratic country's went into a complete lockdown. The government has also decided to cap the minimum and maximum fare.

“Airlines should adhere to the upper and lower limit of fares prescribed by the ministry during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the ministry said. For example, Delhi-Mumbai (the busiest domestic route) flight tickets are capped between Rs 3,500 and Rs 10,000 for the next three months and at least 40 per cent of the seats should be sold at a price which should not be more than the mean value of the price band. The ministry has issued a set of guidelines to be followed. Elderly, pregnant women, and people with health issues are advised to avoid travel.

Passengers staying in the containment zone - in India if a person tests positive for COVID-19 then the area where he stays is sealed to contain the spread and that area is labelled as “containment zone” - will not be allowed to travel.

“It’s not viable to keep the middle seat vacant. Even if you keep the middle seat vacant, you'll still have a situation where the prescribed distance for social distancing isn't followed. If you were to do it then you've to hike up airline ticket price by 33 per cent," the Civil Aviation Minister was quoted telling news agency ANI. As soon as the guidelines were issued all the airlines put their tickets up for sale, but surprisingly Go Air (as of 23-05-2020 at 01:34 am) has not yet started taking bookings for flights from 25 May, 2020.

After a lot of speculation, the Indian government allowed private airlines to participate in its “Vande Bharat” mission. This mission is aimed at repatriating all the stranded Indians abroad. Till date Air India was the only airline operating these repatriation flights but now IndiGo has decided to join it. IndiGo will be operating 97 repatriation flights between Kerala and four countries including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. IndiGo has been allotted almost half of the 180 repatriation flights scheduled for private airlines.

Ronojoy Dutta, Chief Executive Officer, IndiGo, said: "We are grateful for the approval to operate flights to four countries to bring back our fellow citizens, who are either stranded due to suspension of operations or have registered to fly back owing to the economic landscape."

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