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 60% 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.
As can be seen, and very predictable, the number of people flying has gone up. Flight occupancy numbers have seen a sharp uptick from 89 pax per flight on an average when domestic aviation reopened to 104 pax average as of the last completed month, which is 17% more passengers per flight, though there is still room for about 20-21% uptick from here on. On another note, we did cross 200,000 passengers for one day only earlier in November 2020.
Second, this uptick was also caused because schedule controls have been eased over a period of time. For instance, when domestic aviation was opened up, the first few weeks only 33% of approved schedule was allowed. Now, about 60% of the schedule is open. This has meant that from about 660 flights operating per day in the first month after lockdown opened up, we are now at over 1500 flights per day, but only at about half of the 3000 daily departures per day which was the case pre-lockdown.
If you look at the grey bars on the second graph, 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 fifth month, it is a shade above 160,000 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, lots of ground to cover before we can call ourselves recovering to pre-pandemic levels.
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. Here is a Vistara survey today, where polling 4500 people, Vistara came up with answers about when will people travel next and why?
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. I do expect a sharp uptick on account of Diwali and Chatth in the coming days, but, I only expect this to be a temporary uptick.
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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