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Domestic flights in India at 84% of 2019 levels in March: ForwardKeys

According to data recently released by the travel analytics company, the volume of weekly domestic arrivals in India have been increasing since June last year. International air travel remains stunted as border restrictions continue amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the USA is leading the preliminary recovery for flight tickets issued for April to September 2021.

New data released by travel analytics company ForwardKeys has revealed that domestic flights in India reached 84% of 2019 levels in the first week of March says the Moodie Davitt Report. The volume of weekly domestic arrivals has seen a steady upward trajectory since June 2020, after air travel within the country was suspended from March 24 to May 25 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Domestic flights India
Domestic air travel in India has been seeing an upward trend since June 2020. (Data: ForwardKeys)

ForwardKeys has observed that international flight activity began to build slightly after India started permitting foreigners to enter the country from October 2020 with the exception of those on tourist visas. It also said that international air travel seat capacity into India has increased steadily, from 10% of the pre-pandemic level in June 2020 (measured against June 2019) to 34%  in February 2021 (compared to February 2020). This has been spurred by India’s travel bubble arrangements with other countries such as Russia and the Maldives. Twenty-seven such agreements are currently in place. “Since June 2020, taking the lead from India’s air bubble developments and eyeing the leisure travel comeback in one of the biggest inbound tourism countries, airlines have been cautiously restoring international seat capacity into India and repositioning themselves to secure a head-start,” ForwardKeys APAC Director Jameson Wong has said.

International seat capacity for the Indian market is above actual arrivals to the country’s airports (Data: ForwardKeys)

However, with international travel restrictions still in place and fluctuating COVID-19 cases in the country, visitor arrivals into India remain low. They stood at 14% of the June 2019 level in the same month of 2020 and 28% in February 2021, compared to the same month of last year. The upward trajectory in seat capacity has been much sharper than actual visitor arrivals, according to the ForwardKeys flight data. In the first two months of 2021, international seat capacity into India recorded 33% of 2019 levels, while visitor arrivals lagged at just 26% of 2019 levels.

flights India
The USA is leading recovery for international air travel to India with future flight bookings at 76% of 2019. (Data: ForwardKeys)

The USA (76 % of 2019 levels) is leading the preliminary recovery for flight tickets issued for the period April to September 2021. The current results for other markets include Canada (47%), UK (17%), rest of Europe (11%), and Australia and New Zealand (2%). ForwardKeys has also noted a significant shift in contribution from key source markets over the coming six months. The USA, which accounted for 22% of actual air tickets into India from April to September 2019, is currently accounting for 49% of tickets for the period this year. Canada, which previously accounted for 4%, has now grown to 7%. Meanwhile, the UK, a traditional source market which previously accounted for 13%, has shrunk to 9%; Europe, excluding the UK, has slid from 14% to 10%; and Australia and New Zealand together have fallen from 6% to 1%.

Shifts in source markets for international flights to India have been observed for the period of April to September 2021. (Data: ForwardKeys)

“These figures are not yet reflective of the true estimate of the leisure travel rebound as India still has leisure visas under suspension,” the Moodie Davitt Report has quoted ForwardKeys South Asia Market Expert Ram Badrinatha as saying. He added: “Such early signs of pandemic shifts in the traveller source markets to India indicates the need for changes in planning, top-down from government level to operator level. There are exciting new business opportunities.”

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