Civil Aviation Secretary said flight operations are operating at 80 per cent capacity of the pre COVID-19 period. Of the 80 per cent, the utilisation has only been 60-65 per cent.
Air operations resumed in May as part of the 'Unlock' mission, the Ministry of Civil Aviation capped the air fare. (Representational image)
Airfare bands are not going to be permanent and will be done away with as soon as normal flight operations resume, Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said on Thursday.
His comments come against the backdrop of restrictions in place on domestic fares that can be charged by airlines since flight services restarted in May last year after being suspended for two months in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Noting that the civil aviation ministry is closely monitoring air traffic, Kharola said, “fare bands are not going to be permanent”.
While flights are operating at 80 per cent capacity of the pre-COVID-19 period, he said the utilisation has only been 60-65 per cent. “As soon as the normal operation starts, the fare bands will go away,” Kharola added.
In November last year, the capping of fares, subject to certain conditions, was extended to February 24, 2021.
To another query, Kharola said the disinvestment process of Air India is fairly at an “advanced stage”.
“When we say Air India, we mean the Air India family. So Air India goes along with Air India Express and AISATS… this side is Pawan Hans. This would be completed. Air India is, fairly I would say, at an advanced stage,” he said.
About regional air connectivity scheme — UDAN — the secretary said the Budgetary allocation for the scheme for 2021-22 has been increased to Rs 600 crore from Rs 430 crore for the current fiscal.
“Thrust will be on the development of 100 airports. This is reflected in the increased budgetary allocation for operationalising the idle strips on small airports which lies throughout the country,” he said.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Aatmanirbhar Swastha Bharat Yojana announced in the Budget, health capacities will be developed and there would be major investments at aviation entry points.
“Transportation of pharmaceutical (products) or medicine require essential facilities at the airports. So that will be strengthened under this,” he noted.
Air India Chairman and Managing Director Rajiv Bansal said the Vande Bharat Mission, launched during the COVID-19 lockdown, has come a long way and 16 lakh passengers have been ferried to and fro so far.
He also said that flights to London had come down due to the new UK strain.
“The government has given us permission and the number of flights is 30 flights per week. Fifteen by Indian carriers and 15 by international (ones),” he said.