Even as the overall recovery in passenger traffic slowed down in the Indian aviation sector in February, airports in tier 2, 3 and 4 cities continue to be outliers.
From 14 in January, now 16 airports in these cities and towns have surpassed their pre-COVID-19 numbers, data from Airports Authority of India show. Most of the airports on the list improved on their numbers from January.
Airports in metros continue to be in deficit, with subdued corporate travel and restrictions impacting demand. These trends may accentuate in March, say industry observers, as reported cases of COVID-19 infection re-surge. In some of the busiest destinations, including Mumbai, the infections in this second wave have been much higher than the toll in the first wave.
Interestingly, daily flights continue to rise. A report by rating agency ICRA showed that departures have increased from 416 on May 25, when domestic flights resumed post the lockdown, to 2885 on February 14.
Still, from a year ago period, the average daily flights in February continue to be lower.
The new entrants
Airports in Dibrugarh, Rajkot, Dimapur and Kishangarh entered the list of those with traffic numbers higher, year-on-year, in February.
Interestingly, Airports Authority of India took to Twitter on March 29, to highlight the increase in footfalls in Dibrugarh airport. This is what it had to say:
#AAI's Dibrugarh @aaidibairport has witnessed a progressive increase in passenger footfall. From 51K in Jan'21 to over 54K in Feb'21, the airport has followed all health guidelines to ensure the safety of travellers and a seamless flying experience. #IndiaFliesHighpic.twitter.com/AICkglyXLA
— Airports Authority of India (@AAI_Official) March 29, 2021
However, two airport from the January list failed to make it this time. These two are Gorahkpur and Pathankot.
Interestingly, in terms of aircraft movement, February saw a slowdown. Compared to the total aircraft movement of 1.59 lakh recorded in January this year, in February, the airports reported 1.51 lakh. Also, only 16 airports reported numbers better than pre-COVID-19 period.
From 21 airports in January that saw more aircraft movement, measured in landings and take-offs, the number came down to 16 in February. Does it mean that airlines are slowly deploying more capacity in the metro routes?
It could be so.
A combination of the vaccination drive and pent-up demand has seen customers eager to travel. As Moneycontrol had reported, or many of the online travel agencies, leisure travel is already at 70 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels.
Fares on some of the metro routes have inched up. While on Delhi-Bengaluru, the fare was 12 percent higher from a year ago, the rate was 25 percent higher on Hyderabad-New Delhi and 13 percent up on the Mumbai-Delhi route. The highest increase, of 35 percent, was on the Bengaluru-Mumbai sector.