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Domestic air traffic growth to be flat in March as covid cases spike: Icra

Passengers standing in a queue at India’s busiest airport, New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGIA), which will handle about 380 flights, including 190 departures and 190 arrivals, on Monday. Airports operators across the country are preparing to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic.Premium
Passengers standing in a queue at India’s busiest airport, New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGIA), which will handle about 380 flights, including 190 departures and 190 arrivals, on Monday. Airports operators across the country are preparing to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic.

  • Icra expects domestic air traffic to reach its pre-covid levels by fiscal year 2023, while international air traffic will hit pre-covid normalcy only by FY24 because of sluggish demand from leisure and business travellers and a surge in new variants of the covid virus

New Delhi: Domestic air traffic growth is expected to be flat in March amid a low base as the recent spike in covid cases poses a challenge to the recovery of the aviation sector, rating agency Icra Ltd said in a report.

A nationwide lockdown was imposed during March, last year, to contain the spread of covid-19 pandemic. The lockdown, which saw total grounding of domestic air traffic, was eventually lifted after two months in May.

In lines with Icra’s estimates of about 62-64% decline in domestic passenger traffic in FY2021, domestic passenger traffic is pegged at 53.4 million in FY (financial year) 2021, the report said adding that domestic air passenger traffic in March 2021 witnessed a marginal sequential decline of about 1% to about 78.3 lakh due to rising number of cases and resulting travel restrictions imposed by various states.

Domestic passenger traffic in March 2021 has been estimated at about 77-78 lakh, implying a flat growth on an annual basis as compared to March 2020, which had witnessed an annual decline of 33.1% in domestic passenger traffic, it added.

Icra expects domestic air traffic to reach its pre-covid levels by fiscal year 2023, while international air traffic will hit pre-covid normalcy only by FY24 because of sluggish demand from leisure and business travellers and a surge in new variants of the covid virus.

"For March 2021, the average daily departures were about 2,300, higher than the average daily departures of 2,255 in March2020, and marginally higher than about 2,296 in February 2021. The average number of passengers per flight during March 2021 was 109, against an average of 111 passengers per flight in March 2020," said Icra's vice president Kinjal Shah.

"Thus, it is expected that the domestic aviation industry operated at a passenger load factor (PLF) of about 72% in March 2021, against 73.1% in March 2020, which was also impacted by the pandemic," Shah said adding that domestic passenger traffic has been pegged at about 53.4 million for FY 2021, an annual decline of about 62%.

Meanwhile, the average number of daily fliers stood at 2,39,000 for the week ended 3 April, less than 2,51,000 in the week ended 27 March, due to surging number of covid-19 infections, according to a recent report by ICICI Securities.

India has seen an unabated rise in fresh covid cases in the last few days, with daily additions touching one lakh.

As many as 96,982 more people tested positive for covid-19 in the last 24 hours, taking the cumulative caseload to 1,26,86,049, said the Union health ministry early Tuesday.

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