Huge surge in air passenger numbers but overall traffic fails to breach November 2019 mark | Mint
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Business News/ Industry / Huge surge in air passenger numbers but overall traffic fails to breach November 2019 mark
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Huge surge in air passenger numbers but overall traffic fails to breach November 2019 mark

Although November 2023 set new records for highest single day traffic, the overall traffic for the month was 2% lower than November 2019 in India.

As November came to an end yesterday, the domestic traffic in India ended the month with 1,27,16,482 passengersPremium
As November came to an end yesterday, the domestic traffic in India ended the month with 1,27,16,482 passengers

As November came to an end yesterday, the domestic traffic in India ended the month with 1,27,16,482 passengers. The month flipped in the second half with the first half seeing an average of less than 4 lakh passengers per day, while the second half of the month seeing an average of over 4.5 lakh passengers per day. The new records which were being established for highest single day traffic, fuelled by the cricket world cup final frenzy did not help the month register more passengers than November 2019. In the end, the traffic this year was 2% lower than the traffic in November 2019. This makes November the only month in 2023 when the traffic dropped below the corresponding month in 2019.

The month had volatility which would put the stock markets to shame. Leading up to the Diwali and the entire Diwali holidays saw muted traffic with the cricket world cup final weekend leading the boost in travel, along with record fares.

High but not high enough?

The lowest traffic was recorded on Nov, 12 which saw just 3.11 lakh passengers while the highest traffic was recorded 13 days later with 4.67 lakh passengers.

A day before the world cup final, fuelled by the additional flights and end of Diwali holidays - airlines carried 456,748 domestic passengers, the highest ever single day traffic. The record lasted just one day, as a new high was reached the very next day, which too lasted a single day. The record was broken again and again with the high recorded on Saturday, November 25, 2023 with 467,451 domestic passengers on 2975 domestic departures with every airline recording over 90% load factors. The domestic departures are still lower than previous highs which were 3049 domestic departures back in February 2023.

Passenger traffic comparison
View Full Image
Passenger traffic comparison

In November 2019, domestic traffic stood at 1,29,10,135 passengers which saw 92,388 departures. Last month, the departures were 88,501, 4.2% lower than November 2019. This is the fifth month in 2023 when the number of departures are lower than those of the corresponding month of 2019. The years 2020 to 2022 have seen artificial restrictions and COVID waves making the data incomparable.

November helps sail through the quarter

The year 2019 saw 14,37,36,256 domestic passengers. At the end of November, this year has seen 13,92,33,842 passengers. It is a given that Indian aviation will carry more passengers than pre-COVID this year. As October came to a close, the industry needed an average of 4,18,626 daily passengers. The first half of November saw an average of 3.96 lakh, clearly headed towards a dull quarter. The airlines then dropped the fares and the average passengers moved to 4.51 lakhs. At the end of the month, the average moved up to 4.23 lakh passengers.

Domestic passenger comparison
View Full Image
Domestic passenger comparison

This has helped ease the pressure in December, with the required daily passenger numbers averaging just under 4 lakh, an easily achievable number. Can the quarter go past corresponding quarter is settled now, the question now is will there be more peaks and break the daily records?

Tail Note

There have been few surprises from the airlines, one of which being sale fares being available in the peak quarter for immediate travel. This largely indicated that airlines were holding on to their higher yields in hope that passengers would fly no matter the fare. As it started becoming clear that it is not the case, yields were diluted to attract passengers. This resulted in passengers thronging flights helping reach new records.

Domestic departure comparison
View Full Image
Domestic departure comparison

As of now it looks like the balance has been reached between passenger numbers and yields and hopefully the equilibrium is maintained for both the airlines as well as passengers.

As December starts, all eyes are on the holiday traffic in the last week after which IndiGo will start seeing more groundings for its Pratt & Whitney powered planes. The capacity would again be out of the market which IndiGo plans to recover by deploying a mix of wet and dry leased aircraft. Additionally, Air India Express is adding planes at record speeds. For now, November was a blessing in disguise though it failed to cross the pre-COVID numbers.

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Published: 01 Dec 2023, 02:21 PM IST
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