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Photo: HT
Photo: HT

Air travel between metros revives fast

  • The festive season is expected to boost demand further

Airlines are seeing a spike in bookings in October during the ongoing festive season, online travel firms said, hinting at a gradual recovery of the sector plagued by the pandemic.

“We have already reached 65% of pre-covid levels (in terms of demand). The festive season will boost demand further," said Nishant Pitti, chief executive of online travel ticketing platform EaseMyTrip.

Delhi-Mumbai, Srinagar-Delhi, Mumbai-Delhi, Bengaluru-Delhi, Patna-Delhi, Bengaluru-Kolkata, Delhi-Srinagar, Delhi-Patna, Pune-Delhi, Mumbai-Goa, Delhi-Bengaluru, Delhi-Hyderabad, Kolkata-Bengaluru, Delhi-Kolkata and Delhi-Pune remained the busiest routes during October, according to data from EaseMyTrip.

However, ticket prices are lower than last year despite airlines currently operating at only 60% of their pre-covid capacity. This indicates that airlines are discounting on tickets to attract passengers.

“Pricing levels are around 7% lower (on an average) than last year. However, most top routes have seen even lower levels of pricing. This pricing trend could imply that while we see a revival in demand, airline capacity utilization remains under stress. Therefore, airlines are probably responding by reducing prices to manage their load factors," said Aditya Agarwal, head of corporate strategy at Cleartrip.

According to Cleartrip data, the average price for a one-way ticket between Mumbai and Delhi, the busiest sector, is currently at 4,318, down about 9% on an annual basis.

For instance, average one-way fares between top routes like Bengaluru-Delhi is down by 10% as compared to last year, Mumbai-Goa (-17%), Delhi-Patna (-13%), Delhi-Mumbai (-3%), Kolkata-Mumbai (-12%), Kolkata-Bengaluru (-17%), Delhi-Bengaluru (-10%), Bengaluru-Kolkata (-35%), and Delhi-Kolkata (-20%), Cleartrip data showed.

“The top 10 routes, however, do show promising signs of a revival. After a lull since the lockdown, we see the emergence of leisure destinations such as Goa in the top 10, indicating that customer confidence is coming back into the markets. We are seeing traditionally busy routes between Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi also feature in the top 10. These are encouraging signs, and we expect this trend to continue," Agarwal said.

India’s largest domestic airline IndiGo is betting big on the festive season for the revival of demand, Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, president and chief operating officer, told Mint in September.

“I feel that with higher demand coming in the festive season, the situation will improve drastically," Prock-Schauer had said then.

Online travel website ixigo has seen a 40% increase in advance bookings for the festive season with average round-trip fares considerably lower this year as compared to last year. Generally, domestic airfares rise by as much as 20-25% during Diwali.

Industry experts tracking the sector, however, opine that the pre-covid level demand for air travel is expected to return only by 2022-23, and that too only after a vaccine hits the market for mass consumption.

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