Mumbai could see its schedule domestic flights double from 25 arrivals and as many departures daily to 50 each this week.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi government of Maharashtra had allowed schedule flights to resume from May 25 at that level, given the spiralling cases of coronavirus in the state.
But due to heavy demand for travel to and from Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA)—India’s second busiest airport after Delhi’s IGI —NCP, a coalition partner in the MVA government, has sought at least doubling of flights at the earliest.
According to a report – “I have spoken to the state government. There is a need to enhance flights in and out of Mumbai. There will be a decision on increasing flights very soon,” senior NCP leader Praful Patel told TOI.
Sources say the state government has been requested to allow 100 schedule domestic arrivals and as many departures daily. “In the first step, this number may be raised to 50 each and subsequently to 100 each at CSMIA.”
On the first day of resumption of domestic flights on May 25, 58,318 domestic passengers flew through India on 832 flights with an average of 70 passengers per flight.
The number of passengers rose on June 13 to 7,924 flights to 71,924 (an average of 100 passengers per flight), according to the tweets of the Minister of Aviation H S Puri.
“June so far has been slightly better than last week of May in terms of aircraft occupancy, which rose from 50%-52% to 60%. Chennai is also likely to double its allowed schedule domestic flight capacity. Airlines will add flights. Hopefully, corona spread will be under control and the increased number of flights will see a rising aircraft occupancy,” said a senior airline official.
Due to their weak financial situation, airlines have to cut flights if the number of aircraft is less than half full due to the deteriorating corona situation and the continuation of quarantine rules by various states.
In times before Covid, CSMIA operated almost 1,000 flights a day. On May 24, some states such as West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra limited the number of arrivals and departures at their main airports in Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai. That had sent the airlines back to the drawing board to cancel flights.
While the center had allowed one third of its scheduled domestic flights to resume, the limitation of these subways – especially with a large base for airlines like CSMIA – meant that a capacity of about 20% could actually be put into operation.
“As of now, our aim is to operationalise the one-third schedule for this summer as per actual demand,” said the senior airline official.
“More than 10 lakh people have now flown on more than 11,500 flights since domestic operations recommenced on May 25, 2020,” Puri tweeted on June 13.
While domestic flights were supposed to resume at one-third level, unlock 1.0 has seen that cap go. Now airlines can add flights as per the originally approved summer schedule based on actual demand.