Soaring Higher: 65% Of Domestic Air Travel Back To Pre-COVID-19 Levels

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Representational photograph of passengers registering their details for the RT-PCR test.

Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola has backed the need to evolve a strategy to bring back the tourism industry on its feet at a time nearly 65% of the domestic air travel has returned to the pre-COVID-19 level.

Air Travel: A Preferred Mode

Mr. Kharola was addressing a webinar on ‘Aviation and Tourism-the Road Ahead’ hosted by the Federation of Association of Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH). The Civil Aviation Secretary also said in the times of COVID-19, air travel has become a preferred mode of travel for being a safe means of transportation.

“On the first day of resumption of domestic air services (25 May) there were 79,000 people who would travel and we were worried. But gradually it started improving,” he said. Mr. Kharola informed that on November 27, a total 2.50 lakh passengers travelled on domestic flights and considering that the average per day passenger number was around 3.70-3.75 lakh before the pandemic hit the country, almost 65% of the domestic travel is back to the pre-COVID-19 level. He said that as more business activities and colleges open up, this may go up to 80-90 per cent in the next 2-3 months or almost to the level of normalcy.

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A representational picture of passengers at an airport. Source: CTV News

Driving The Demand

Kharola also said as business travel demand will take time to come back, it will be segments like VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) driving the demand in aviation going forward.

On the opening of scheduled international commercial passengers flights, he said: “International aviation depends not only on us but other side also.”

Air Travel: Returning To Normalcy

“Aviation is going towards normal. This normalcy ought to be brought in tourism industry also. Tourist destinations have already opened up, the ASI has opened up the monuments. Now is the time to convince people that it is safe to travel,” Mr. Kharola he said adding that we all have to work together and evolve a strategy to motivate that domestic tourism also picks up.

The Civil Aviation Secretary added that at the same time other countries should also consider issuing tourist visas again. Mr. Kharola also urged the tourism industry to promote domestic airlines as it would help in revival of the economy.

Simpleflying reported that the festival of Diwali has seen India’s domestic passenger numbers reach their peak since flights restarted. Over 2,25,000 passengers took to the skies on November 13, the day before Diwali, as thousands wished to return home. India has seen domestic numbers steadily recover since May, with the 10% Diwali jump being the biggest yet.

In a tweet, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri confirmed that 225,097 passengers took to the skies on 13th November. This number is over a 10% jump from the previous week’s numbers, showing a clear Diwali bump in travel.

India, Simpleflying in a report said has seen an impressive recovery since domestic flights resumed at the end of May, following a two-month break due to lockdown restrictions. Daily passenger numbers have steadily risen from 30,000 in May to well over 200,000 as of November.

As per the DGCA data, air passenger traffic had grown after the first quarter period of current fiscal when the impact of COVID-19 related lockdown brought travel to almost a grinding halt. Though the unlock phase and gradual opening up of the economic has improved air travel in subsequent months, it is still way below last year’s numbers.

Against a drop in domestic passenger traffic to 22.65 lakh in April-June quarter of current year, passenger traffic went up to 88.82 in the July-September quarter. It is expected to further rise in October-December quarter depending on the COVID pandemic.

According to the DGCA, passengers ferried by domestic airlines during October declined to 52.71 lakh as against 1.23 crore for the corresponding period of the previous year.

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