you are here: HomeNewsBusiness

COVID-19 impact | Air passengers are booking whole business class, even entire aircraft, to keep distancing

The trend has picked up since the Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines joint venture let customers book their adjacent seats to ensure social distancing.

November 20, 2020 / 01:56 PM IST

The festive season and the upcoming New Year, has seen higher air passenger traffic, much to the relief of the airlines. The improving trend is underlined by another, unseen one - passengers are increasingly opting to book more seats than they need, sometimes the whole of the business class, or even the entire aircraft!

At the heart of the trend is the need among passengers to keep social distancing.

"We have been observing a trend where families are booking even the entire business class cabin to ensure privacy and social distancing while travelling. There have also been multiple instances where families or small group of travellers have booked the entire aircraft as well," Vistara Chief Commercial Officer Vinod Kannan told Moneycontrol in response to a query.

The trend has picked up since the Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines joint venture let customers book their adjacent seats to ensure social distancing.

"We have been getting bookings from all sections of our customers benefitting from the offering for their families, business travel and a few for leisure travel as well," Kannan added.


COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

View more
How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

View more

The airline considers booking of 10 or more seats as a group booking.

"Given the increased focus on safety and social distancing, we do believe that customers will continue to take advantage of this option of booking additional seat(s) in the future as well," Kannan added.

It surely seems more than just a rare occurrence, like the one in June, where IndiGo's 180-seater aircraft had just four passengers. 

The trend has caught up enough for the country's largest airline to launch a new scheme for customers. "We have introduced all new wedding charter service in collaboration with Accor Hotels. Keeping convenience and comfort in the mind, we are offering an exclusive family and friends IndiGo charter, a hotel deal and safe transportation of our customers to their destination," the company's spokesperson said.

InterGlobe Enterprises, parent of IndiGo, also runs InterGlobe Hotels that manages Accor properties in India.

"This will further help customers who want to go ahead with bulk bookings/ full flight bookings for a safer and customised flying experience," the spokesperson added.

Leisure Vs Business

Air passenger traffic has grown consistently, month-on-month since domestic flights resumed in May. In October, traffic was up 33.6 percent from a month ago. 

"We have seen a positive trend over the first few months of resumption of operations post the lockdown including the steadily rising PLF (passenger load factor), unit revenue and future bookings on the back of increasing customer confidence in air travel," the IndiGo executive said.

At the same time, demand has been higher from leisure travelers or those visiting friends and relatives, than those on business, a segment that is yet to pick up. Companies continue to encourage their employees to meet virtually.

Bulk bookings too has followed this trend, with those visiting friends and relatives, or going holidaying in a group, tending to book in bulk, or the entire aircraft.

"India is a country with close-knit families and friend circles, and hence we believe people will start flying and moving from one place to another to meet their loved ones. Therefore, we believe that leisure travel will see an increase towards the end of this year or early 2021, while corporate travel will take a back seat till the pandemic situation recovers to a larger extent," the IndiGo spokesperson said.

That is one reason why Goa - as this Moneycontrol story had earlier pointed out - has become one of the top destinations this year.  Overall, the data has shown that much of the traffic continues to originate in the metros and go towards "hometown destinations."
Prince Mathews Thomas heads the corporate bureau of Moneycontrol. He has been covering the business world for 16 years, having worked in The Hindu Business Line, Forbes India, Dow Jones Newswires, The Economic Times, Business Standard and The Week. A Chevening scholar, Prince has also authored The Consolidators, a book on second generation entrepreneurs.
first published: Nov 20, 2020 01:56 pm

stay updated

Get Daily News on your Browser