How Is India’s Air Market Recovery Going?

India has had one of the fastest aviation recoveries globally, especially in the domestic market. The country is now routinely seeing over 85% recovery in terms of passenger numbers on domestic flights. However, international flights remain far below their pre-COVID levels. Here’s the status of India’s air market recovery.

Indian airlines Getty
India’s domestic market is fast approaching pre-COVID levels in terms of both passengers and capacity. Photo: Getty Images

Looking up

India has long bucked the trend of major aviation markets since flights resumed in late May. Domestic traffic has continued to rise since then, with the government now permitting 80% of airline winter schedules to fly. However, many had long been concerned that capacity did not match passenger demand, which continued to lag.

However, the last few months have seen daily passenger numbers rise considerably. With a high of over 260,000 daily passengers in late January, India has exceeded an 85% passenger recovery. This is a stunning figure considering this number had only reached 33% in late August, which means 50% more traffic has been added in the last four months.

India domestic flight resumption
India’s airports have quickly become crowded thanks to growing daily passengers. Photo: Getty Images

A few factors have favored India’s strong recovery in the last few months. Since October, the number of daily COVID-19 cases began to fall consistently, reaching under 10,000 in January. Cases have also been concentrated in a small number of states, allowing both leisure and business travel to resume in other parts of the country. India now has one of the lowest new cases per capita, easing health concerns for passengers.

With passenger figures approaching pre-COVID levels, the government could remove the 80% capacity cap on airlines. We have already seen fare caps being eased this month, allowing airlines to offer significantly cheaper fares once again.

International lag behind

While things are looking up domestically, international flights remain far behind their pre-COVID levels. A surge in cases in popular destinations like the UK and Dubai has seen flight levels fall slightly and slow the overall recovery. Data from RadarBox.com shows that India has reached a 46% international capacity recovery after a brief fall in December due to the new strain of the virus.

Air India Boeing 787
Border restrictions and low demand mean international flights have not bounced back as of yet. Photo: Getty Images

While precise statistics of international passengers are hard to come by, border restrictions mean only a few are flying. Destinations that are allowing travelers have seen high traffic from India (such as Dubai and Maldives), but recent quarantine rules have hurt demand. Overall, until the vaccine is widely available, international traffic will remain low.

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Industry still growing

Despite the events of the last year, the aviation industry continues to grow. According to a government report seen by the Indian Express, India’s commercial aircraft fleet grew from 669 to 713 planes from March to November 2020. We’ve previously discussed how some Indian carriers have used the pandemic to grow and modernize their fleet.

IndiGo A320neo
IndiGo took delivery of 44 new aircraft in 2020, making it Airbus’ biggest customer, and retired its older A320ceos. Photo: Airbus

India remains on track to reach its pre-COVID aviation traffic levels by the end of the year as the vaccine rollout bolsters demand. It’s undoubtable that India has managed to buck global trends and continue to grow despite aviation’s worst year in history.

What do you think about India’s airline recovery? Have you traveled since last year? Let us know in the comments!

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