The Centre on Wednesday allowed airlines to increase their operating capacity of flights to 60% from the current 45%.

The review was done after a total number of flights operated by commercial airlines in India crossed 1,000 flights a day during the month of August, according to The Economic Times. On September 2, the Centre operated 1,122 departures and 1,120 arrivals in a day, Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri said.

Both domestic and international flights were grounded in March when a countrywide lockdown was imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The Centre had allowed domestic flight services to resume on May 25, but at only one-third capacity. The cap was later being increased to 45%. However, the suspension of international flights to and from the country has been extended till September 30.

“After the review of the current status of scheduled domestic operations viz-a-viz passenger demands for air travel in terms of purpose specified in the initial order (01/2020) dated 21.05.2020, condition laid modified as under: 45% capacity may be read as 60% capacity,” the Ministry of Civil Aviation said in an order. “This order shall take effect from the date of issue of this order. The other terms and conditions shall remain the same.”

Jitender Bhargava, former executive director of Air India, said the decision was in line with a growth in the number of passengers, the Hindustan Times reported. “It is a good move considering that there is steady growth in the average number of passengers lying on domestic sectors,” he added. “Hence, to ensure that the growing demand of the passengers is met this increase appears to be a part of well thought of strategy.”

The government has been operating international flights under “Mission Vande Bharat” since May 6, to bring back stranded Indians from abroad. The mission is currently in its sixth phase.

Since July, India has established air bubbles with the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Maldives. The government is negotiating such arrangements with 13 more countries – Australia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Bahrain, Israel, Kenya, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

On August 28, the Ministry of Civil Aviation allowed airlines to resume serving pre-packed snacks, meals and beverages on domestic flights and hot meals on international flights. It also permitted aircraft operators to allow passengers to use the in-flight entertainment system on international and domestic flights.

India’s coronavirus count on Thursday touched 38,53,407 with a record 83,883 new cases. The toll rose by 1,043 to 67,376.

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