After being steady on the path of recovery, domestic air passenger traffic crossed the 10-million mark in November for the first time since the pandemic hit the aviation industry in March 2020 since the Covid-19 outbreak. However, the virus’ new variant Omicron has the potential to spoil the party, according to rating agency ICRA NSE 0.85 per cent.
After recording 1.23 crore domestic passengers in February 2020, domestic air travel demand dipped to 19.84 lakh passengers in the first month (June 2020) of the resumption of flight services on the local routes after a two-month hiatus.
The recovery in domestic traffic was on an upwards trajectory till March this year when a more wide spread and aggressive second wave of the pandemic hit the country, resulting in domestic travel demand reducing to 21.15 lakh passengers in May 2021.
“In the second phase of the recovery, domestic travel demand rose to 10.04-10.05 million (1.004 crore-1.005 crore) in November 2021 as against 63.54 lakh passengers recorded in the year-ago period, registering a robust 64 per cent year-on-year growth” ICRA said in a statement.
“The month-on-month growth, however, stood at 15-16 per cent in November over around 8.98 million passenger traffic in October 2021” ICRA said.
ICRA Vice-President and Sector Head Suprio Banerjee said, “Though the recovery continued in November, demand continues to be subdued from the corporate traveller segment as reflected by the passenger traffic being lower by around 19 per cent in November 2021 compared to pre-COVID-19 levels.”
The threat of the new Omicron variant, which has delayed the resumption of scheduled international operations, has the potential to derail the domestic recovery too, if it triggers another set of lockdowns/ restrictions in the near term, he added.
ICRA also said “Domestic carriers deployed 49 per cent higher capacity in the previous months vis-à-vis November 2020, logging around 80,750 departures in the month under review as against 54,132 departures in the year-ago period.”
The average number of passengers per flight during November was around 129, against an average of 125 passengers per flight in October 2021, according to the rating agency.