Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday during the Indian School of Business’s Deccan Dialogue event said that Air travel will return to pre-COVID levels by the end of December or by the beginning of 2021.

“I am confident that by the end of the year, by December 31 or soon thereafter… means a week or two weeks thereafter, we will be back to pre-Covid levels,” Puri said while addressing participants virtually at the ISB’s Deccan Dialogue.

“We opened civil aviation on May 25 — 2 months and 2 days after the complete lockdown —  with 30,000 passengers a day. Two days back, just before Diwali, we carried 2.25 lakh passengers.” Puri further added.

As of now domestic flights in the country operating at the 70 percent level in a calibrated manner. “I have already told my colleagues to look at 80 percent. I am confident that by December 31, or soon thereafter (a week or two into January) we will return to pre-COVID levels,” he said.

Puri also said that when civil aviation is fully operational, there will be a need to strengthen the existing safety protocols. “That requires that we continue to maintain and strengthen the existing safety protocols and we adapt. It requires professional people to set up those protocols and also requires self-discipline,” he said.

The Aviation Minister also said stressed increasing the aviation sector’s contribution to the GDP of the country.

Terming the present aviation model as distorted, Puri said, “The value of air traffic between USA and India is roughly $7 bn annually. How much do Indian carriers get of the traffic? They get a mere 17 percent. It is not that the USA carriers get the remaining 83 percent — not going to say who gets it.”

“I see no reason why Indian flagship or private carriers can’t earn more money flying passengers. These are distorted business models.”