Over 12.8 million passengers have flown in India since domestic flights resumed in late May. The figure comes as the government hopes to reach pre-pandemic domestic levels by the end of the year. While this might be a substantial figure, overall domestic traffic is substantially down from last year.
Passenger confidence returns
As of today, over 12.8 million passengers have flown since India lifted its ban on domestic flights on 25th May. Airlines have flown over 135,000 flights to meet this demand, quite a substantial figure during the pandemic. Traffic has also steadily increased in the last few months, signaling that passengers do find it safe enough to travel.
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Flying has also proven to be safer than other travel methods in the last few months. Passengers on domestic flights are given face shields, masks, and sanitizers to ensure there is no transmission onboard. Inflight service has also resumed, returning a sense of normalcy to flying.
However, not everyone is willing to travel just yet. In a survey from the Hindustan Times, only 19% of passengers are currently willing to travel during the festival season (Q4). If this figure does hold, airlines won’t see a sharp rise in passengers as it usually does.
Not all rosy
While India is making a recovery, overall, figures are still heavily down from last year. In September, passenger numbers were down 66% year-on-year, while airline capacity remains 46% of 2019 levels. International flights have been hit harder and are down 89% from last year, mainly since scheduled flights are still banned.
For airlines, the all-important load factor is struggling too. Since the lockdown was eased, airlines have seen around 95 seats filled per plane. Considering most Indian airlines operate A320s and 737s, this means just over half the plane is full. Figures have improved in September, with an average load factor of 63%, but are still down over 20% from last year.
The government has currently allowed airlines to resume 60% of their pre-pandemic schedules, with plans to raise it to 75% soon. While this will give airlines wiggle room, it’s unlikely they will reach this capacity level soon.
There remains a lot of reasons to remain optimistic about India’s aviation recovery. The primary factor is that a bulk of India’s recovery has come during the worst of the pandemic, with tens of thousands of daily cases. As cases slow in the last few weeks, we could see people become more confident in flying, fueling fresh growth for the industry.
This quarter has the potential to be the strongest for the beleaguered aviation sector. With slowing cases and popular festivals around the corner, India could be headed to a quick recovery that few countries in its position have seen.
What do you think about India’s aviation recovery? Do you feel it is safe to fly right now? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.