New Delhi: In a move aimed at reducing fares by increasing capacity, the government plans to allow airlines fly additional flights to the northeast and other areas during peak periods beyond their seasonal schedules. The proposal, which would be tried on the northeastern routes first, comes against the backdrop of persisting concerns over spike in airfares during disasters, festival seasons and other high demand periods.
As part of the new strategy, the Civil Aviation Ministry has cleared the proposal of start-up carrier Vistara to operate extra flights to the northeast during the summer season. Sources said this is a "first of its kind" move allowing an airline to operate more flights only for a particular period to the northeast.
Currently carriers operating flights to the northeastern states cannot withdraw them without government's permission considering air connectivity to the region is relatively poor. This norm has been relaxed now and, following a request from Vistara, the Ministry has given the go ahead to operate flights to the northeast during the summer schedule, sources said, implying that the carrier can withdraw the additional flights later.
Request from budget carrier SpiceJet for having more flights to the northeast only during the summer schedule is under consideration, they added. Sources said depending on the response, a system of allowing additional flights for a particular period when the demand is generally higher can be considered for other parts of the country. With steep fluctuations in airfares remaining a matter of concern, the Ministry has proposed a cap of Rs 2,500 per ticket for one-hour duration flights in the draft civil aviation policy.
The Rs 2,500 limit plan is part of larger efforts to increase regional air connectivity, a key priority of the government to connect more smaller cities by air and tap the domestic aviation sector's huge growth potential. Amid concerns expressed by Parliamentarians on air fares going higher during the recent Jat agitation and natural calamities, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju had told the Lok Sabha last month that he would discuss the issue with stakeholders.
Raju's deputy Mahesh Sharma had also said recently that the government would announce a mechanism soon to curb high airfares. "We are in the process of adopting certain measures to cap ticket price. But we are trying to do it by consensus and not by regulation. Our prime minister also envisions that fares be kept under control," Sharma had said.