Flight bookings have surged in the days leading to Diwali, as customers travel to be with friends and relatives during the festival of lights. While bookings have increased by 15 percent week-on-week, more than half of the tickets booked are for travel within two weeks of the Diwali.
The increase in air travel will sit well with airlines, who have made a slow recovery amid COVID-19, after resuming operations in May. Also, the added push comes when they have the go-ahead from the government to increase their capacity to 70 percent, from the earlier 60 percent.
"Due to the pandemic, booking volumes are around 50 percent of last year. However, volumes have doubled since July," said Aditya Agarwal, Head of Corporate Strategy at Cleartrip, an online travel agency.
"The easing of restrictions and arrival of festival season has spurred volumes. There is significant amount of pent-up demand that is coming back to the market and we expect this to continue into this quarter and spill over to the next," he added.
At EaseMyTrip too, the numbers show a similar trend.
"Demand has picked up very well. We have seen a 13 percent rise in demand this week. And we notice that airlines have started adding capacity at top sectors, including Delhi and Mumbai," Nishant Pitti, the CEO, said. He added that ticket fares mostly hover around mid-point of the price cap laid down by the government.
The price cap and restricted capacity were some of the conditions laid down by the government when domestic flights resumed in May. The fare cap has been extended to February 2021.
Agarwal of Cleartrip said that while fares are 10 percent lower than last year, "This could change as we still have a few more days to go to Diwali." Agarwal had replied to Moneycontrol queries on November 11. Diwali falls on November 14.
Where are people going?
Data from Cleartrip and EaseMyTrip show that much of the traffic is between metros, and towards the eastern parts of the country.
"The top routes being booked for travel between November 8 and November 16, reveal that customers are preferring to travel back home and spend time with families during Diwali," Agarwal said.
Much of the traffic is originating from Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, and heading to Patna, Kolkata, Lucknow and Varanasi.
"As the dates approach closer to Diwali, these routes are replacing traditionally busy routes between Mumbai, Bengaluru and New Delhi," said Agarwal.
As Moneycontrol had written before, Goa continues to grow popular. Goa to Mumbai and Mumbai to Goa are two top ten routes on EaseMyTrip. For the travel date of November 16, Mumbai to Goa is the most popular route.
Read more about Goa as a top destination : Goa tourism rocks, bookings surge: Not just Milind Soman, everyone loves India's beach state
At the same time, travelers are still reluctant to book a return flight, probably because the restrictions around COVID-19 are still playing in their minds.
"One-way trips account for 76 percent of the trips between November 9 and November 16. This indicates that most customers prefer to have flexibility in travel plans and are booking closer to the date of travel," said Agarwal.