Govt sets limit on airfares as airlines gear up

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airlines As domestic flight operations resume on Monday, the government has set limits on airfares, categorising them into seven bands as per the flight durations, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Thursday. The limits would be in place till August 24, said Puri at a press conference in Delhi.

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The domestic civil aviation operations will begin in a calibrated manner from May 25. All passenger flight services were suspended as a nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25. The lockdown was further extended on April 14, May 3 and May 17 till May 31.

“Flight routes have been classified into 7 – 1) Flight time less than 40 minutes, 2) 40 – 60 minutes, 3) 60 – 90 minutes, 4) 90 – 120 minutes, 5) 120 – 150 minutes, 6) 150 – 180 minutes, 7) 180 – 210 minutes. All routes within the country fall within these seven bands,” the minister said.  Aviation Secretary PS Kharola, who was also present at the press conference, said 40% of seats have to be sold at a fare less than the midpoint of the lower and upper airfare limits set for the band.

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“For example, midpoint of Rs 3500 and Rs 10000 is Rs 6700. So 40% of the seats have to be sold at a price less than Rs 6700. This is how we’re ensuring that fares don’t go out of control,” he said.

Puri said in the case of a flight between Delhi and Mumbai, the minimum fare would be Rs 3500 for a journey of 90-120 minutes while the maximum fare would be Rs 10,000.  The minister said he could not comment right now on when flight operations would be restored completely.

He, however, added that for operations between Metro to Non-metro cities where weekly departures is less than 100, airlines are free to operate any routes of one-third capacity of approved summer schedule 2020. For all other cities, airlines are free to use one capacity of approved summer schedule 2020, he said.

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On resumption of international flight operations, he said, “Based on our experience on opening up of domestic flights, we might have to tweak some procedures, only then we will think about international flights.”

On precautions during flights amid COVID-19 pandemic, Puri said, “The cabin crew will be required to be in full protective gear. Only one check-in bag will be allowed. Passengers should report before at least 2 hours before departure time. Fares will be regulated & will be in a fixed range.”

“A passenger will require to wear protective gear, face mask and carry sanitizer bottle. Airlines shall not provide a meal on board. Water bottles will be made available in gallery area or on seats,” Puri said.

“A self-declaration or Aarogya Setu App status on a compatible device would be obtained to ensure that a passenger is free of COVID19 symptoms. Passenger with red status on Aarogya Setu App will not be allowed to travel,” he added. For a passenger who does not have the Aarogya Setu app on her or his phone for some reason, she or he can give a self-declaration form, the minister said, adding that such a passenger will not be stopped from boarding the flight.