Indian Airline Bookings Rise As Travel Confidence Grows

As the festival season comes around, Indian airlines are seeing a jump in travel bookings. This comes as passenger confidence in air travel begins to rebound after two months of sustained low cases. After a recovery during the festival season last year, airlines are hoping to replicate the same this time. However, fears of a third wave of cases remain high, possibly erasing these gains.

Indian Airlines
Indian airlines are seeing strong demand for advance ticket bookings, a good sign during the pandemic. Photo: Getty Images

Back in action

According to Mint, airlines are seeing an impressive recovery in passenger bookings in August. This month has seen 4.52 million passengers in the first three weeks alone, blowing past the 3.3 million seen last month. With the potential to reach closer to March ’21 levels, carriers are finally seeing a sustained recovery.

Notably, it’s not only last-minute bookings that are flowing in. While last-in reservations have become dominant since the pandemic hit, airlines are now also seeing a rise in advance ticket sales (more than 14 days from departure). This is a positive sign indicating passenger confidence in air travel in the longer future too.

IndiGo Air India
With ticket bookings on the up-and-up, could a full recovery for Indian aviation be closer than predicted? Photo: Getty Images

Last August through early November are a busy time for Indian airlines are hundreds of thousands criss-cross the country every day to arrive home for festival season. Traffic peaks at the end of October, giving airlines a revenue boost before heading into the winter.

Speaking about the rising bookings, one budget airline executive said,

“Going by the current figures, we are hoping for air ticket sales to pick up further during the festive season. If the current growth continues unhindered, we could see a recovery to pre-covid levels by October-December period”

Soon

Current estimates for a full aviation recovery are pegged at sometime in early 2022. However, passenger numbers have been rising rapidly in recent days, raising the possibility that the end of the year could see airlines meet and exceed 2019 domestic passenger levels. August 2nd saw 269,000 passengers take to the skies, just shy of the 313,000-daily pandemic peak seen in early March.

However, exceeding 380,000 passengers every day will require the COVID situation to remain stable across the country. After a second wave that devastated the nation, any signs of rising cases are likely to push the public to cancel flights and stay at home.

Air India Crew
India’s aviation recovery hinges on COVID cases remaining stable for the next three months. Photo: Getty Images

With scientists predicting a possible third wave in October, aviation’s dream recovery might be cut short once more time. However, no predictions can be prescient and India could well pass through the festival season without a major wave of infections. The question remains if passengers will be willing to fly even with a moderate rise in cases.

Airlines still preparing

Spooked by this spring’s crash, Indian airlines are preparing for the third wave. IndiGo is building up a $1 billion war chest, while SpiceJet is spinning off its only profitable venture and raising funds. Vistara has also received another cash infusion from parents Tata and Singapore Airlines to weather any further storms.

The next quarter is critical for Indian airlines and could be the difference between making and breaking the industry in the medium term.

What do you think about India’s domestic recovery? Let us know in the comments!

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