International and domestic flights: Four major relaxations provided to airlines
From a complete shutdown of international and domestic flights in March and April, India has come a long way achieving the one crore passenger mark in the domestic sector. Vande Bharat Mission (VBM), which started in May, facilitated repatriation and outbound travel of nearly 18 lakh citizens, according to aviation ministry data.
“Moving towards Pre-COVID figures. Congratulations to all stakeholders on achieving this milestone! We continue our journey towards creating an #AatmaNirbharBharat,” civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri has tweeted.
In this period of time, several major relaxations have been provided to the airlines to boost domestic and international traffic.
Private airlines in Vande Bharat Mission
When initiated in May, Vande Bharat Mission was led by Air India. During the third phase of the VBM, the Centre allowed private airlines to take part. The seventh phase of VBM will begin in October.
Domestic passenger flights are now operating at their 60 per cent of pre-Covid capacity. When domestic services resumed on May 25, after a gap of two months, they were not allowed to operate more that 33 per cent of their capacity, which in June was increased to 60 per cent. Several cities initially put a cap on the number of flights arriving. In a staggered manner, these restrictions have been relaxed leading to an increase in domestic traffic.
Internation air traffic got a leg-up after India started signing air bubbles with specific countries allowing both-way traffic. At present, India has air bubbles with 14 countries.
Airlines are now allowed to implement their own check-in baggage policies instead of one check-in bag of up to 20 kg per passenger — a rule that was put in place when domestic flights commenced on May 25.
On-board meal services
In August, the government allowed airlines to serve pre-packed meals, snacks, beverages on domestic flights and hot meals on international flights. No meals were allowed on domestic flights in the initial months. International flights were allowed to serve snacks, pre-packed cold meals.