Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Indian aviation veers toward non-metros in December, 13 cities see traffic better than pre-COVID levels

December has seen air passenger traffic touch a new high in at least 13 cities, with numbers higher than pre-COVID-19 levels.

All the 13 are tier- 2 and 3 cities, underlining the recent trend in Indian aviation, where passenger traffic has picked up better in smaller destinations than in the metros. The list includes Gorakhpur, Prayagraj, Ludhiana, Belgaum and Srinagar.

This is an improvement from November when six cities saw a year-on-year improvement. This is based on data from the Airports Authority of India.

"Domestic airline operations in December 2020 continued the gradual streak of improvement and stood at 57 percent of pre-COVID levels (v/s ~49 percent in November 2020)," analysts Swarnendu Bhushan and Sarfraz Bhimani of Motilal Oswal had said in a recent report.

"We reaffirm that optimism over the vaccine could certainly result in increased flying confidence. Also, the reopening of physical offices would require migrant employees to fly back to their job cities," they added.

Hindon and Pathankot airports witnessed among the highest growth rates, with passenger traffic increasing by 41.6 percent and 28 percent, respectively. Both the cities feature on regional routes. While Hindon is connected by Star Air and Air Heritage, Air India's unit Alliance Air flies from Pathankot.

The reverse migration had helped the domestic aviation get back to its feet when flights resumed in May 2020. The busiest routes were those connecting metros to smaller cities such as Patna, Varanasi and Srinagar. Since then, the trend has sustained, even though the traditionally busy routes such as Delhi-Mumbai and Bengaluru-Mumbai have regained some of the lost ground.

26/01/21 Prince Mathews Thomas/Moneycontrol.com

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