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NEW DELHI : Domestic air passenger traffic rose about 52% year-on-year and about 6% sequentially to about 11.1 million passengers in December following a revival in travel during the festive season, credit rating agency Icra said on Monday.

Capacity deployed by airlines during December remained 35% higher than the year-ago period – with December 2021 recording 86,465 departures against 64,002 departures in December 2020 – while sequentially number of departures last month was about 7% higher than November, Icra said in a statement.

However, the emergence of a more virulent covid-19 variant, which has resulted in government-imposed restrictions to contain the virus, has led to a slowdown in air traffic growth and remain near term challenges to the revival of the sector, it added.

Daily domestic air passenger traffic, which has been on the rise since June last year, started dipping in January due to a rise in fresh cases of infections.

Recently, daily domestic air passenger traffic fell below the 3,00,000 level for the first time since November last year on 4 January due to concerns regarding the third wave of coronavirus.

"For December 2021, the average daily departures were at about 2,800, notably higher than the average daily departures of about 2,065 in December 2020, and somewhat higher than about 2,700 in November 2021. The average number of passengers per flight during December 2021 was close to about 129, which was largely flat compared to November 2021," said Suprio Banerjee, Vice president and sector head, at Icra.

"Though sequential recovery continued in December 2021, largely driven by leisure travel, boosted by calendar year-end festive and holiday travel, demand continues to remain subdued from the corporate traveller segment... Moreover, with the emergence of the new Covid variant and the recent trend of rising infections, few states have already started announcing certain curbs on domestic air travel, posing a serious threat to domestic passenger traffic recovery in the near term," Banerjee added.

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