Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday said that going by the steady rise in domestic air passengers, pre-COVID air passenger levels of 3,00,000 would be reached by the year-end.
“Between Diwali and the end of this year, passenger numbers will reach 3,00,000 and going into first quarter of next year, we will go past that figure,” Mr. Puri said addressing his 7th media interaction since the lockdown and resultant suspension of flights.
With regard to the number of daily domestic air passengers, the Minister informed that the figure on October 2 and 3 was 1,76,000. “Now it’s our assessment, by the end of this month, we’ll be at 2,00,000 and then continue to grow,” he said.
Answering a question on whether travel bubble arrangements will continue till March-April, the Mr. Puri said, “It is difficult to say as there is no country which has completely opened its borders for all. It depends on the availability of a vaccine as countries will feel more confident once a vaccine is there.”
The minister hinted that international flights could remain suspended till March-April 2021. “There are basically three issues to consider before resuming regular international flights. One, resuming domestic connectivity connecting bigger cities to smaller town, which we have already done. Second, the nature of the virus on which I can’t comment and the third is international restrictions. Every country wants their people to return, but for others there are plenty of restrictions,” Mr. Puri said.
The Minister mentioned that domestic airlines would soon be allowed to increase their capacity to 75 percent of pre-COVID operations. This would mean a 10 percent increase from the 65 per cent capacity airlines are operating presently. “There is no deadline set. But this can happen soon as the domestic numbers are going up,” he said.