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India’s airlines add more non-stop flights to their networks as air traffic nears pre-pandemic levels 

Expansion of connectivity benefits Indian passengers. Delhi, the largest airport in the country, continues to rule the roost with non-stop flights to 76 destinations, followed by Mumbai with 67 and Bengaluru with 66. Hyderabad occupies the fourth spot with 61 

December 06, 2021 / 12:21 PM IST
Representative Image

Representative Image

The domestic aviation market in India is now close to pre-pandemic levels. As of December 5, India recorded 30 consecutive days of domestic passenger numbers being over 300,000, with the highest being on November 21, when 393,245 passengers took to the skies.

IndiGo has reached pre-pandemic levels of departures on the domestic segment, and that turns out to be the highest ever for the market leader. Even as the overall count of flights hovers between 85 and 90 percent of the approved schedule, the pandemic has ensured that there is more connectivity than ever before.

While keeping the flight count below pre-pandemic levels, airlines have added more non-stop flights to their network! This has meant that passengers across most cities in the country have more non-stop destinations connected to their airport than was the case before the pandemic. It is very much in line with a general prediction that passengers are likely to opt for more non-stop connectivity over flying one-stop to avoid transfers and related hassles.

Who gained the most? 

Bengaluru, which now has two functional parallel runways, has gained the most. The city was connected to 51 domestic destinations in December 2019. This year, the city is connected to 66 domestic destinations, an addition of 15. Bengaluru benefited from opening up of new connections to places like Darbhanga, Bareilly, Agra and Jamnagar, among others.

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Bengaluru was followed closely by Pune, which added 13 new destinations in December over December 2019. Pune is seeing new connectivity to Tirupati, Jabalpur, Guwahati, Coimbatore, Chandigarh, Raipur, Bhopal and Prayagraj.

Delhi and Mumbai added 11 new destinations to their networks, which were largely driven by flights under the Udaan Regional Connectivity Scheme and new airports being operationalised. Lucknow added 10, becoming the last airport in the list to add double-digit new destinations.

Top-cities-which-saw-increased-connectivity

Interesting as it may seem, out of 109 airports analysed, none have seen a drop in connectivity. While many or most airports have lost flights, when it comes to destinations, 24 out of 109 airports have remained with the same connectivity as pre-Covid. Twenty one saw the addition of just one destination, 20 added two destinations, 12 added three destinations; eight airports added four destinations, five added five destinations and another five added six destinations, while just one (Prayagraj) added seven destinations. Two airports added eight destinations, while five added nine.

Newly operational airports

Bareilly, Bhuj, Darbhanga, Kalaburagi, Bidar, Jagdalpur, Kushinagar, Kurnool, Bilaspur, Pakyong, Rupsi and Tezu are the airports which were either inaugurated in the last two years or have seen resumption of service!

Interestingly, most new airports are connected to more than one destination. Bareilly, for example, is connected to three, the same as Kurnool and Kushinagar (when Mumbai and Kolkata get connected next week), while Darbhanga is connected to five! Kalaburagi, Pakyong, Rupsi and Jagdalpur are connected to two each.

Most connected airports

Delhi, the largest airport in the country, continued to rule the roost with non-stop flights to 76 destinations in the country. Delhi is followed by Mumbai at 67 destinations and Bengaluru at 66 destinations. Hyderabad occupies the fourth spot at 61.

Most-connected-airports

Airports Authority of India (AAI) owned Kolkata, Chennai and Pune occupy fifth, seventh and eight spots with 47, 43 and 28 connections. Adani Airports-operated Ahmedabad, Guwahati and Jaipur take up the sixth, ninth and tenth spots to complete the top 10. Ahmedabad is connected to 44 destinations while Guwahati and Jaipur are connected to 24 each.

Tail Note

If a similar template gets played out for international flights when things stabilise, it could be good news for IndiGo, which has been harbouring ambitions of flying non-stop in the range of 6-7 hours with its focus on the four major metros in the country.

This will also put a question mark over the middle-eastern hubs and could well be good news for the Tata-owned Air India, the only carrier or airline group to have wide-body aircraft in its fleet.

While there may have been a dip in traffic, the expanded connectivity is helping passengers more than ever.
Ameya Joshi runs the aviation analysis website Network Thoughts.
first published: Dec 6, 2021 12:21 pm

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