If current encouraging trends hold, the aviation industry might be able to stage a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels by FY24.
A combination of revenge leisure tourism and reduced restrictions for fully vaccinated passengers is spurring a pickup in air travel. According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, more than 2,00,000 people took to the skies on a daily average basis during August. This figure is double that recorded in June. Interestingly, a lot of the fresh demand is being generated as much from leisure travellers in the metros – visiting popular haunts like Rajasthan, Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Goa – as those from and to tier II cities. The later section of travellers is seen to be travelling to reunite with family and friends as lockdown conditions abate.
As a result of this impetus and a low base, domestic air traffic is expected to grow by almost 50 per cent Year-On-Year this fiscal. But experts reckon that recovery to pre-pandemic levels could still be a couple of years away.
Holding back an even faster shift in fortunes for the airline industry is the depressed business travel segment. Work-from-home and a freeze on travel expenditure are major downers for business travel. But the silver lining is those who can travel by private jets are doing so. Consequently, traffic in this micro-segment has swung back to 2019 numbers.
The beleaguered aviation sector also has some respite from a mini boom in international travel. Maldives, a few European and Middle Eastern countries have opened their doors to Indian tourists. Students are being allowed wider access to travel to destinations like the US under special visas. But for other travellers there is always the roundabout option of flying to Mexico, serving the quarantine period there, before flying to the US. Other unconventional destinations like Serbia and Russia have also gained popularity for the same reason. And now that more stopover destinations have opened to Indian tourists, there is bound to be more such travel in the interim.