Domestic air travel is set to become costlier as the Civil Aviation Ministry on Friday raised the lower limit on fares by 13-16%, according to an official order. The increase in airfares will come into effect from June 1, it said. The upper limits on fares remain unchanged. The government has raised the lower limits to help the airlines amid a devastating second wave of COVID-19, which has reduced air travel significantly.
India had imposed lower and upper limits on airfares based on flight duration when services were resumed on May 25 last year after a two-month lockdown. On Friday, the official order said the lower limit for flights under 40 minutes of duration will be increased from Rs 2,300 to Rs 2,600 â€” an increase of 13%. Similarly, flights with duration between 40 minutes and 60 minutes will have a lower limit of Rs 3,300 instead of Rs 2,900 now, the order said.
Domestic flights of duration between 60-90, 90-120, 120-150, 150-180 and 180-210 minutes will have lower limits of Rs 4,000, Rs 4,700, Rs 6,100, Rs 7,400 and Rs 8,700, respectively, from June 1 onwards, as per the order. Currently, domestic flights of duration between 60-90, 90-120, 120-150, 150-180 and 180-210 minutes have lower limits of Rs 3,500, Rs 4,100, Rs 5,300, Rs 6,400 and Rs 7,600, respectively. The official order said that the government has taken this decision keeping in mind the "prevailing situation of COVID-19" in the country.
Domestic air travel has drastically reduced in the country during the last couple of weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On February 28, around 3.13 lakh domestic air passengers travelled in India. On May 25, domestic flights operated in India with only 39,000 passengers approximately.
Airlines can also only operate only 50% of their pre-COVID domestic flights from June 1 instead of 80% permitted currently, the Civil Aviation Ministry said.
The decision has been taken "in view of the sudden surge in the number of active COVID-19 cases across the country, decrease in passenger traffic and passenger load factor (occupancy rate)", the ministry said in an order.
When the government had resumed scheduled domestic flights in India on May 25 last year after a two-month-long break, the ministry had permitted the carriers to operate not more than 33% of their pre-COVID domestic services. This cap was gradually increased to up to 80% by December last year.