By Rohit Vaid
New Delhi, March 27 The reinstatement of regular international flight operations is expected to boost the pandemic battered civil aviation industry in India.
On Sunday, scheduled commercial international passenger services to and from India were restarted.
The Centre has allowed over 3,200 flights per week from India during this year’s summer schedule which commenced on Sunday.
Besides, the restart of regular international services brings more options and lower prices for passengers.
Industry experts say that the present juncture might be the opportune moment for India’s airline industry to gain international market share.
At present, foreign carriers ferry more Indians to overseas destinations than the homegrown airlines.
“The resumption of regular international flights after a hiatus of 2 years is set to give a booster shot to the domestic airline companies who have seen a prolonged disruption to their operations,” said Suman Chowdhury, Chief Analytical Officer, Acuite Ratings & Research.
“While risks of additional Covid waves will remain, the likelihood of the same impacting economic activities including passenger transportation in a severe manner is gradually on a decline, given the high vaccination coverage and the increased immunity.”
Chowdhury pointed out that advance bookings for the upcoming summer season have also seen an encouraging trend driven by an expected revival in the hospitality and tourism industry.
Lately, the domestic air passenger traffic has seen a sequential pickup.
In February 2022, the traffic grew by 19 per cent over January 2022 due to a rapid drop in Omicron cases, although the volumes were still significantly lower than the pre-Covid levels.
“Domestic travel has been increasing rapidly in the past few months,” said Ashish Chhawchharia, Partner & National Head — Restructuring Services at Grant Thornton Bharat.
“As international travel resumes, a huge boost to the travel and tourism industry will be felt across the hospitality, F&B and retail sector. In the near future, fleet size, airports and routes, maintenance, cargo, FTOs and drones are going to expand exponentially, to meet the demand.”
Furthermore, pent-up demand for international wanderlust is expected to keep seats full for airlines.
Moreover, even the fuel used on the international routes is far cheaper than the one consumed for domestic operations.
“‘Go Big’ is the theme for international travel this year. The industry is seeing a strong desire for grand getaways fuelled by pent-up demand and limited international travel options in the last two years,” said Rajnish Kumar, Co-founder & Group CPTO, ixigo.
“We are also seeing a trend of travellers now eager to book long-haul destinations with international borders reopening and relaxation of rules across the globe.”
As per ixigo, significant uptick has been seen in travel search queries for popular international destinations like Australia, Sri Lanka, US & UK.
“Travel search queries from India for Australian cities like Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney have jumped 15-20 per cent this month,” Kumar said.
In addition to airlines, other segments like airports and the hospitality are expected to reap the benefits out of the reinstatement.
“After missing international summer travel for two consecutive years and the country recording the lowest cases of all time, passengers have shown keen interest in leisure travel over the last couple of months,” a CSMIA (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai) spokesperson said.
“With international travel soon resuming, we anticipate passenger footfall crossing pre-pandemic numbers with nearly 700 flight movements daily in the summer of 2022.”
India had banned the operation of international flights on March 23, 2020 to contain and control the spread of Covid-19.
Flight restrictions, however, were later eased under the air bubble arrangement with certain countries.
(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at email@example.com)