It is no secret that aviation has been severely hit by the CoVid-19 pandemic and has been tottering back on its feet after airlines were allowed to operate domestic flights again from May 25, 2020, onwards. While there are significant claims about aviation flying high almost every day, the reality is not so great, to be honest. India used to have over 2, 500 flights a day, and now we have less than 40% of that operating daily.
I’ve been tracking the numbers as you know, whenever the government of India publishes them, and here is the update which includes the daily statistics from the days the GoI put them out in the public domain.
There are a few things of interest here, nevermind the missing data which we are still trying to get by requesting the government for it.
Firstly, the number of passengers per flight has been mostly consistent between 90-100 over the past three months. Combine this with the anecdotal information that many flights are running full, and it means that traffic is unidirectional at the moment, with people heading out, perhaps of the big cities into smaller ones but not coming back in. Hence, the average occupancy over the past three months or so continues to hover around 90 passengers per flight, which is about 50%, assuming an all-economy configuration of 180.
Secondly, we finally hit 1000 flights a day, two days a week. We need to see how long will this last, but remember, Indian aviation used to see more than 2,500 flights a day pre-pandemic, domestic. So, we are still way less in terms of the number of flights being operated at the moment, at about 40% of the daily schedule.
Thirdly, if you look at the grey bars on the right side, which is a monthly average of the number of passengers taking flights every day, there is a steady pickup. For the first month, the average number of passengers travelling was just a shade less than 59,000 passengers daily. Now, for the third month, it is a shade above 84,000 passengers per day. Does this mean more people are flying? Yes. Is that an impressive uptake? No. Pre lockdown, 3,91,000 people used to fly every day on an average. So, only 21% of the pre-pandemic demand.
Why so? Many businesses have mandated people not to travel at the moment, and for personal reasons, people are not travelling for leisure right now except if they have a long-pending visit to make to their loved ones I guess for now. Also, a large number of the passengers are connecting from or into international flights, and as the number of these repatriation flights increase, so do the passengers taking a connection. Festivals that have started in August 2020, such as Raksha Bandhan, Ganeshutsav and so on may also be a partial reason for the demand to increase.
Over a period of time, we will need to see how things pan out, but by all means, this is going to be a marathon rather than a sprint to take travel back to the pre-COVID levels. Till then, airlines need to find the money to operate flights and stimulate demand to bring people back up in the air.
What do you think of the revival of aviation in India? How soon or late will it be before air travel demand returns?
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