Sunday, October 17News That Matters

Back to packed flights

THE lifting of capacity restrictions on domestic airlines from October 18 comes on the heels of a surge in festive, leisure and corporate travel. Airlines will be able to operate at their full pre-Covid capacity for the first time since a national lockdown was imposed in March last year and domestic operations were resumed after two months on May 25, 2020. Passenger numbers, in recent days, have crossed the 3 lakh daily mark, last recorded in February-end before the second wave of Covid. In anticipation of the rush in the days and weeks ahead, the two biggest airports, Delhi and Mumbai, have announced reopening of terminals that were closed because of low footfall. Delhi’s Terminal 1 would resume operations from October 31, while the chaotic scenes witnessed at Mumbai airport on account of the sudden increase in traffic have prompted reopening of its Terminal 1 a week in advance.

With the tourism industry seeing a welcome rebound following the fall in coronavirus cases and an aggressive vaccination programme, sticking to capacity restrictions served little purpose. For the aviation industry, the development comes as a positive, but next on its radar would be getting the curbs on fare bands lifted. On that count, the Centre would be well advised not to rush into taking a decision, since the pent-up demand presents a perfect trigger for an unnecessary ticket price war at a much higher minimum base level. The urge to undo the losses suffered during the past year-and-a-half could result in unreasonable practices by airlines that would not be in the interest of consumers, most of whom would be venturing out for their first family holiday after months together.

The pandemic has dealt a particularly rough hand to the travel and tourism industry, and for the operators, the sight of packed airports and flights for travel destinations would come as a glimmer of hope. That should mean added, and not lesser, responsibility, be it on adhering to Covid-protocol guidelines or right pricing.

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