India crossed the 200,000 daily passengers this week, marking the first time it has done so since flights resumed. The number has long been expected and signifies India’s strong domestic aviation recovery. The government has also signaled that it will raise domestic capacity limits to 70-75% in response to the growing demand.
It was only in late August when India first reached a 33% domestic passenger recovery and growth has only surged since then. On 1st November, 205,900 passengers took to the skies, indicating over a 66% recovery compared to average 2019 passenger figures. The milestone comes as India hopes for robust travel demand in the coming weeks due to festival holidays.
This growth has come despite India having some of the world’s highest daily cases in September, bucking trends in other countries. As cases have fallen drastically in the last month, passenger numbers have continued to rise, reaching their current peak in early November.
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Over 15 million passengers have flown on domestic flights since they resumed in late May, signaling high passenger confidence levels. Air travel remains one of the safest methods of travel, according to recent studies, with an extremely low chance of contracting the virus on a flight.
With traffic rising every day, the government has announced that it plans on increasing the domestic capacity limit. The capacity cap will be increased to 70-75% from the current 60%, giving airlines more flights in the winter season. Currently, Indian airlines could only fly just under 13,000 in the winter season.
The Indian government has been slowly increasing the number of flights allowed as demand picks up. Airlines were only allowed to fly 33% of their summer schedule when flights resumed, which was revised to 45% and 60% since then. It will not be surprising if the government does away with restrictions by early next year at the current pace of growth.
The next few months will be critical to see if this exponential growth continues. The winter season generally sees high traffic due to festivals and winter holidays, but demand is far lower this year. International flights also remain highly controlled, which means total passenger numbers are still far away from pre-pandemic levels.
India’s aviation recovery is undoubtedly a unique one, seeing dramatic growth even in the face of rising cases. If cases continue to fall or hold steady, India is well on track to reach its goal of reaching pre-pandemic passenger levels on domestic flights by the end of 2020. However, this year has taught us that nothing is set in stone and the threat of a second wave could set the industry back significantly.
What do you think about India’s aviation recovery? Could it make a full domestic recovery by the end of the year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!