Indian aviation sector mauled by Covid-19, but refuses to die

The cash-strapped Indian aviation sector has started seeing a silver lining but there is a long way to go to achieve pre-covid volumes

Indian aviation sector mauled by Covid-19, but refuses to die
Passengers at the Delhi airport. Image courtesy: Twitter/ @DelhiAirport

The aviation sector, which came to a standstill for two months during the lockdown, to help curb the spread of the deadly Coronavirus, is now limping back to normalcy.

The latest data by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) shows Indian skies have become relatively busier. The number of air passengers and flight operations has more than doubled between the last week of May and the first week of September.

There were 1,122 flight departures on September 2 while this number stood at just 501 flights on May 31. The number of domestic passengers for departure on September 2 touched 1,15,349 against 44,593 on May 31. On the other hand, there were 1,120 flight arrivals on September 2 against 502 on May 31. The number of passengers handled during arrivals on September was 1,15,283 against 44,678 on May 31.

Soaring Higher!
Domestic Operations on 2nd September 2020, Day 102 till 2359 hrs.

Departures 1122
1,15,349 passengers handled.
Arrivals 1120
1,15,283 passengers handled.
Total movements 2,242
Footfalls at airports 2,30,632
Total number of flyers 1,15,349

— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) September 3, 2020

Sky full of milestones!

More than 1000 flights.
More than 200K passenger footfalls at airports.
Now we cross the milestone of more than 100K domestic passengers in a day!
Civil Aviation sector flies high.

Congratulations to everyone who has made this achievement possible.

— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) August 27, 2020

Domestic operations on 31st May 2020 (Day 7) till 2359 hrs.

Departures 501
44,593 passengers handled.
Arrivals 502
44,678 passengers handled.

Total movements 1003 with 89,271 footfalls at airports.
Total number of flyers 44,593@MoCA_GoI @AAI_Official

— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) June 1, 2020

Domestic flight operations resumed on May 25 after remaining suspended for two months to check the spread of the coronavirus. Air operations were planned to commence with 30% capacity after factoring in social distancing norms. The government, though, had increased the flights to 45% by the end of June. Yet, the number of passengers opting for air travel remained low to mid-July.

And now, the government has announced that the capacity of the domestic flight operations is to be increased to 60%, after reviewing the current status of scheduled domestic flight operations in terms of passenger demand. Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri is hoping that domestic flight operations can be started in full capacity by the end of this year.

Many online travel operators told Plane Vanilla that demands between the metro cities have picked up the pace. Air traffic in non-metro cities like Srinagar, Patna, Pune, Lucknow, Ranchi, Ahmedabad, Visakhapatnam and Goa has also seen a sharp hike.

The cash-strapped aviation sector has started seeing a silver lining but there is a long way to go to achieve pre-covid volumes. The monthly statistics of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) shows air traffic is drastically low when compared to figures of the previous year, or 2019.

Ministry data show an incremental increase in air travellers each month. Around 21.07 lakh passengers travelled across India in July. This number was 19.84 lakh in June and just 2.81 lakh in May.

However, air traffic volume has seen a drastic fall this year. Passengers carried by domestic airlines during January to July 2020 were 3.72 crore as against 8.25 crore during the same months in 2019, registering a sharp fall of 54.84% on an annual basis.

Data show that air passengers in July this year were 17.7% of that in the previous year. Similarly, the total volume of traffic in June 2020 was only 16.5% of the total passenger load in June 2019.

Aviation experts claim curtailed flight operations and health scare are the reasons behind the plummeted numbers. All the airlines are following heightened safety measures complete with the use of mask and face shields for passengers, physical distancing, deep disinfection of aircraft and airports.