Indian Domestic Travel Makes A 75% Passenger Recovery

After a tumultuous 2021, the burgeoning Indian domestic market has made a significant recovery. The last month has seen passenger levels rise to their highest levels since the pandemic hit and capacity restrictions lifted. Here’s a look at the domestic recovery and what it means for airlines.

Indian Airlines
Indian airlines have been steadily gaining ground since August and are on track to beat 2019 capacity in the near future. Photo: Getty Images

Ready to go!

Indian airlines have been on a roll since August, steadily adding capacity as passengers returned to the skies. However, the significant bump came in October, when airlines added a massive 22% capacity in a matter of four weeks. This happened along with the government’s lifting of capacity limits, 10 months after initially planned.

Passengers have followed quickly. September through November is brisk business for airlines, with millions traveling for the festival season. With cases holding low for months now, travelers were more than willing to jump on an aircraft. Traffic hit a pandemic-era peak on 31st October, with 338,000 domestic passengers taking to the skies, finally beating the March highs.

The domestic market is inching closer to a full recovery as COVID cases remain stable across the country. Photo: Getty Images

While late October saw traffic nearly reach 80%, passenger numbers are closer to 75% of pre-pandemic levels as of today. While the festival season bump will die down in the days to come, airlines can expect to see numbers to hover near the 70% mark for much of the winter, barring any changes in the situation.

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Airlines zooming ahead

The increasing numbers have been great news for airlines. IndiGo announced that it had narrowed its losses in Q2 of the financial year, with revenues doubling thanks to strong booking numbers. Other airlines are likely to see similar results, with most faring better in recent months.

With an optimistic view for the winter, the government has approved 22,287 weekly flights for the season, just over 4% below 2019 levels. This means airlines have another 25% more capacity remaining to deploy from now until March. If passenger levels hold, it won’t be surprising to see some carriers reach their limit soon.

Indian Domestic Travel Makes A 75% Passenger Recovery
IndiGo commands the lion’s share of the weekly capacity, operating 46% of all flights with a market share of over 56%. Photo: Airbus

With far less government control (fare caps remain in place), airlines are likely to add more capacity and launch new routes in the coming months. IndiGo alone has added over a dozen new routes in November, while SpiceJet is pushing double that.

Reordering the list

However, the recovery has not come without some big changes. September saw Vistara bump SpiceJet as India’s third-biggest airline, highlighting the low-cost airline’s deep struggles. IndiGo and Air India continue to lead the list, but the latter has seen its share slip as other carriers make capacity gains since the low of May.

For now, Indian aviation is a bubbling space. With two new players on the horizon and the current ones fighting for their place, the domestic market could look very different post-pandemic.

What do you think about the Indian domestic recovery? Let us know in the comments!