Monday, December 06, 2021

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

06/12/21 Ameya Joshi/

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