Domestic flights resuming next week will be placed in seven categories on the basis of the journey’s duration, and limits will be set on fares, which would be in place till August 24, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Thursday.
The minister said each band would have its specific lower and upper limits of air fare, and the first such band will consist of flights that are of less than 40 minutes duration.
The subsequent bands from the second to the seventh would be of flights with durations of 40-60 minutes, 60-90 minutes, 90-120 minutes, 120-150 minutes, 150-180 minutes, and 180-210 minutes respectively, he told a press conference.
However, Puri did not say what would be the upper limit and lower limit fares, and when would airlines be able to open their bookings for domestic flights.
Later, the aviation regulator DGCA said in an order the lower and upper fare limits for the first band would be Rs 2,000 and Rs 6,000, respectively.
The lower and upper limits for the subsequent bands would be Rs 2,500-Rs 7,500, Rs 3,000-Rs 9,000, Rs 3,500-Rs 10,000, Rs 4,500-Rs 13,000, Rs 5,500 – Rs 15,700 and Rs 6,500-Rs 18,600, respectively, the DGCA added.
Aviation Secretary P S Kharola, who was also present at Puri’s press conference, said 40 percent of the seats would have to be sold at less than the mid-point of the lower and upper air fare limits set for the flights.
Giving the example of the Delhi-Mumbai route, Kharola said the lower limit and upper limit has been fixed at Rs 3,500 and Rs 10,000, respectively.
This means that airlines will have to sell 40 percent of seats on Delhi-Mumbai flights at less than Rs 6,700, which is the mid-point of this band, he said. “This is how we are ensuring the fares do not go out of control. At the same time, we are ensuring the fares are reasonable for airlines.”
When asked if passengers boarding domestic flights would be put under quarantine at the place of arrival, the minister told reporters, “Quarantine will be dealt with in a pragmatic manner.”
“If I go to Kerala, will I be put under quarantine for 14 days? Then on my return, will I be put under quarantine again for 14 days? This is not practical,” he added.
Puri said he can’t comment right now on when flight operations would be restored completely.
“We gained some experience from Vande Bharat mission. Now we are opening 1/3rd of our domestic civil aviation operations. Whatever experience we gain now, on that basis we would then go to open international travel,” he said.
He said social distancing norms won’t be implemented even if middle seats are kept vacant on flights, therefore, “we have decided to not keep middle seats vacant”.
If a passenger does not have the Aarogya Setu app on her or his phone for some reason, they can give a self-declaration form, the minister said, adding that they will not be stopped from boarding the flight.
The minister added that private carriers will join the Vande Bharat mission to repatriate Indians stranded abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Puri said by the end of the month, total 50,000 Indians would be brought back from abroad under the mission. The Vande Bharat mission began on May 7. To date, only Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express have been operating flights under this mission.
Domestic flight operations will resume in India from May 25. All commercial passenger flights were suspended in the country from March 25, when the Modi government imposed a lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.