Thursday, October 08, 2020

New, unusual routes pop up in airline networks due to pandemic realities

Airlines in India have been on a roller coaster ride since domestic aviation re-started on May 25. From the outset, multiple conditions hit the airlines — the cap on capacity, lower and higher ranges in air fares, and slots at airports being scattered to ensure physical distancing. As if this was not enough, individual states came up with an additional set of rules.

This has led to a challenging time for passenger-facing staff of airlines — cockpit and cabin crew as well as those on the frontlines at airports. Frontline staff members interacting with passengers have their own set of challenges, Meanwhile, another battle is playing out in the backroom with Network Planning and Revenue Management teams, among others, on their toes processing inputs from the ground to start a route that can help fill up planes, garner additional revenue and ensure cash flow.

The result has been a change in the pecking order at airports as those away from the public glare try every trick in the book and invent new ones to ensure money keeps rolling in.

When the government allowed the restart of services, it laid down a condition that an airline can start one third of its approved summer schedule while spacing slots to ensure physical distancing within the airport.

While the initial days saw spacing of flights, airports as well as airlines bettered their processes with each passing day. The government, too, relaxed the capacity norms, allowing additional flights, and airports started accommodating more flights in the same time band.

While the initial days saw traffic move from metros to Tier II and Tier III cities, as things stabilised and the economy began reviving, the flow was in the reverse direction. A favourite pastime on twitter for many was to map passengers per flight, whereas in reality most flights were going choc-a-block one way and almost empty the other way

08/10/20 Ameya Joshi/

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