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Fares on busy tourist routes like Mumbai-Goa and Delhi-Srinagar fell 33% and 48%, respectively, from the pre-lockdown prices. (Mint)
Fares on busy tourist routes like Mumbai-Goa and Delhi-Srinagar fell 33% and 48%, respectively, from the pre-lockdown prices. (Mint)

Flights from metros to smaller cities in big demand as people rush to native places

  • Bookings for leisure and official travel continue to stay weak after the curbs were lifted, say travel agents
  • IATA expects the share of global gross domestic product spent on air transport to halve in 2020 to $434 billion (0.5% of GDP) due to the lockdowns

Bookings for flights connecting metros are starting to recover after being overshadowed initially by flights connecting the metros to smaller cities when India lifted a two-month ban on domestic air travel, according to travel agents.

Flights between metro and non-metro cities saw a rush in bookings when the government allowed airlines to resume domestic flights in a staggered manner from 25 May. This was because the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the major cities forced most people to rush back to their native places that were relatively less affected.

According to three online travel firms, most of the bookings made initially were from people stranded in various cities, often their workplaces, following the nationwide lockdown imposed on 25 March to contain the pandemic.

Bookings for leisure and official travel, however, continue to stay weak.

“Bookings on our platform indicate that Mumbai-Varanasi, Delhi-Patna and Mumbai-Delhi were the top-selling routes when bookings opened on 21 May; however, over the last few days, we have seen a spike in bookings for Mumbai-Imphal, Bengaluru-Guwahati, Delhi-Srinagar and Delhi-Imphal routes," said a spokesperson at online travel company MakeMyTrip.

“With (the) majority of people booking tickets to travel back home, travel between metro and non-metro routes has taken a lead over the conventional metro to metro routes; and we expect this trend to continue in the coming weeks as well," the spokesperson added.

However, with the phased easing of the lockdown from 8 June, flight bookings to metros in the upcoming weeks is showing a rebound as several offices are set to resume work.

“Bookings for the period 1-7 June 2020 across key routes have increased by 45-50% in some routes as compared to May last week when domestic flights had just reopened. Bookings from non-metros to metro cities have doubled and tripled on some routes for travel between 1-7 June," said a spokesperson at online travel portal ixigo.com, adding that bookings from metro to metro routes are slowly recovering and have shown a week-on-week increase by 20-25%.

Meanwhile, Alexandre de Juniac, director general and chief executive of industry body International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Tuesday that airlines globally will lose over $84 billion in 2020 due to covid-19 and a muted travel appetite.

“The losses this year will be the biggest in aviation history—over $84 billion in 2020 and nearly $16 billion in 2021. By comparison, airlines lost $31 billion with the Global Financial Crisis and oil price spike in 2008 and 2009. There is no comparison for the dimension of this crisis," De Juniac told reporters.

IATA expects the share of global gross domestic product spent on air transport to halve in 2020 to $434 billion (0.5% of GDP) due to the lockdowns.

“In the near-term, consumers will face lower real travel costs as airlines are significantly discounting ticket prices to stimulate demand. The average return fare (before surcharges and tax) of $254 in 2020 is forecast to be 68% lower than in 1998, after adjusting for inflation," IATA said in a statement.

According to ixigo data, average one-way fares in the first week of June were 20-25% lower than the last week of May, while one-way fares for the week through 14 June are 15-20% lower compared to pre-lockdown fares in March. Fares on typically busy tourist routes like Mumbai-Goa and Delhi-Srinagar have fallen 33% and 48%, respectively, from pre-lockdown prices.

An average one-way air ticket between New Delhi and Mumbai, the country’s longstanding busiest route before the outbreak of covid-19, currently costs 4,784, 33% less than that charged during 25-31 May, according to data from ixigo. Similarly, average one-way fares between New Delhi and Bangalore dropped by 2% to 6,064 in the same period, as per ixigo data.

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