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Domestic air traffic registers strong recovery

ByNeha LM Tripathi, Delhi
Jun 23, 2022 03:15 PM IST

The number of passengers who took domestic flights in May rose to 12 million in May, almost six times the number that took flights in the same month last year, although that low base was on account of the Delta-driven second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The number of passengers who took domestic flights in May rose to 12 million in May, almost six times the number that took flights in the same month last year, although that low base was on account of the Delta-driven second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the summer season seeing a sharp increase in the number of air travellers, the estimated domestic passenger load factor is around 85% as against 49% in May 2021 and 90% in May 2019 (pre-Covid), according to ratings agency ICRA.
With the summer season seeing a sharp increase in the number of air travellers, the estimated domestic passenger load factor is around 85% as against 49% in May 2021 and 90% in May 2019 (pre-Covid), according to ratings agency ICRA.

With the summer season seeing a sharp increase in the number of air travellers, the estimated domestic passenger load factor is around 85% as against 49% in May 2021 and 90% in May 2019 (pre-Covid), according to ratings agency ICRA.

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The pent-up travel demand has seen international air traffic surpass pre-covid levels by around 24% according to ICRA, with fares spiking north. To be sure, while the number of domestic flights, and also international flights operated by Indian airlines is back to pre-Covid levels, international airlines are operating around 85% of the flights they used to pre-pandemic

According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) report released on Tuesday, domestic airlines carried 47.8 million passengers in the five months to May, as against 31.2 million during the corresponding period of the previous year.

“We have seen a consistent increase in the number of travelers over the last four- five months, with Indians taking domestic flights as well as international flights now,” an IndiGo spokesperson said.

IndiGo operates over 1600 daily flights and connecting 73 domestic destinations and 24 international destinations.

According to a report by the ratings agency, ICRA, domestic air travel in May was only 7% lower than pre-Covid levels.

“In fact, we are operating more flights now vis-à-vis pre-pandemic,” a Vistara spokesperson said. The joint venture airline is currently operating flights to and from nine destinations globally.

“It is very encouraging to see such a return of demand for travel after a long break.”

There has also been a spike in prices, largely a function of international capacity constraints.

“Capacity constraints are currently creating headwinds for US routes with fares seeing a corresponding surge of over 35-50% and this holds true for key European sectors too with fares at between 40% of pre-pandemic pricing,” said Indiver Rastogi, President & Group Head , Global Business Travel , Thomas Cook (India) & SOTC.

Domestic fares too have moved up, driven by demand, especially during the ongoing holiday season.

"On average, airfares for India’s metro routes are at about 10-15% higher, though for leisure routes, we have witnessed a considerable surge for favourites such as Srinagar, Himachal , Leh, and Andamans , " he added.

An industry expert on condition of anonymity said airfares for India’s metro routes are at about 10-15% higher, though for leisure routes, they have witnessed a considerable surge for favourites like Srinagar, Himachal, Leh, Andamans.

“The airfares are making it difficult for a common man to plan their trip in a short time. Only those traveling for leisure are safe from these fares, others, who are booking air tickets for any emergency or last-minute travel are facing the heat,” Rastogi added.

“We should see a rationalisation as schools reopen and we move into the traditional low season,” Rastogi said.

Airlines like Singapore and Emirates said that they are recovering well.

Singapore Airlines said that it is currently operating at 75% of its pre-Covid capacity. Pre Covid, Singapore Group operated 145 flights weekly from 13 cities across India. Currently, from these 13 cities, the group is operating 115 flights weekly.

“Presently, Singapore Airlines operates 73 flights per week from eight cities across India – Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai. Scoot operates 42 flights per week from six cities in India – Amritsar, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Tiruchirappalli, Trivandrum, Vizag,” the airline spokesperson said.

Prior to the pandemic, Emirates operated 170 weekly flights to nine cities across India and it re-introduced pre-pandemic flight frequencies to its destinations in India from April 1 this year. It also brought back the iconic Airbus A380 on a daily basis between Dubai and Mumbai in March.

The airline currently operates to more than 130 passenger destinations and over 140 cargo destinations across six continents.

“After a hiatus of two years, India (family and solo travelers) enjoyed a peak summer travel with heavy outbound traffic to several international routes within Asia, Maldives, Middle East and America,” the airline’s statement read.

Emirates said that they have recovered more than 90% of its network.

“Business recovery has picked up pace with pent-up travel demand driving a huge improvement. As summer travel picks up across markets, we continue to witness healthy load factors. Closer to home destinations like Bali, Mauritius and other South Asian markets are currently witnessing healthy traffic and emerging as summer stops with India being an important source market for several of these destinations,” an Emirates spokesperson said.

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