Since domestic flights resumed in May after the coronavirus-imposed lockdown, non-metro routes have been the busiest.
In one more indication that air traffic is slowly but surely trending towards pre-COVID-19 levels, the Delhi-Mumbai route is now growing the fastest.
For some online travel agencies, Delhi-Mumbai is now the busiest route of all, also signalling an uptick in corporate travel.
The route, with nearly 50,000 flights a year, has traditionally been the most sought after in the domestic aviation sector, and was also ranked as the third busiest in the world in 2018. But that was till the industry buckled down after the pandemic struck and a lockdown forced airlines to ground their fleet in March.
Though domestic flights resumed on May 25, it is the non-metro routes that have seen the highest traffic, probably because of customers flying back to their hometowns during the lockdown. It also mattered that the Maharashtra government had put a cap on flights that could be operated out of the Mumbai airport.
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Delhi-Patna, Delhi-Srinagar and Delhi-Imphal, were among the busiest routes when bookings re-opened.
It remained so over the next few months too, until the trend reversed in the beginning of September when traffic on the Delhi-Mumbai route started picking pace.
"Delhi - Mumbai again coming as the top selling sector gives us indication that business travel is again picking up," said Nishant Pitti, CEO - EaseMyTrip.com. Latest data from the online travel agency shows Delhi-Mumbai on the top, followed by Kolkata-Bengaluru, Delhi-Srinagar and Patna-Bengaluru.
On Ixigo, data from September 1 to 18, shows a 97 percent increase in bookings on the Delhi-Mumbai route, as compared to the first 18 days in August. Kolkata-Mumbai saw the second-highest growth, followed by Bengaluru-Chennai.
"We have seen a surge in flight demand this month on the traditional busy metro routes and a 37 percent recovery of domestic flights as of week ending September 18," Aloke Bajpai, CEO & Co-founder, ixigo, said in a statement to Moneycontrol in response to a query.
"Festive travel is also slowly starting to pick up steam and we anticipate a 50 percent recovery by Diwali. Airfare trends indicate that the next one week is the cheapest time to book tickets, which will further drive the travel demand for the upcoming Dussehra break," Bajpai added.
In August 28.32 lakh passengers took to the air, up from 21.07 lakh in July. The growth of 34.4 percent month-on-month was much higher than the 6.1 percent recorded in July.
While the year-on-year drop in passenger movement was 75.99 percent in August this year, this was still a better show from the month earlier. In July, year-on-year traffic declined by 82.3 percent.Daily passenger movements and flights have also increased. On September 20, 1.49 lakh passengers traveled on flights. There were a total of 2,768 flight movements. In comparison, 1121 domestic flights carried 1.2 lakh on September 1.