Aviation sector fast reaching pre-Covid passenger levels

New Delhi (IANS) The worst is over for Indias civil aviation sector as passenger traffic is fast reaching pre-Covid levels.

In a conversation with IANS, Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said that the worst is over for the aviation sector which has successfully transformed its image as an elitist mode of transportation to that of a bare essential one.

The sector played a pivotal role in repatriation, transporting essential medicines, PPE kits, agricultural produce and equipment during the lockdown phase.

Even now, it is ferrying temperature controlled vaccines for the worlds largest inoculation programme.

“The worst seems to be behind us. Daily passenger numbers are rising, but we will wait till it reaches the mark of 3.85 lakh per day. At that level, the current traffic rate would have reached the per-Covid levels. Only after reaching that mark and seeing a consistency in that trend will we be able to lift the fare and capacity cap,” Kharola said.

Notably, the 3.85 lakh daily passenger mark is the average of 2019 traffic.

After reaching that mark, the Centre will wait to see that it is being met on a consistent basis before removing the caps.

Presently, the Centre has expanded the airfare cap by increasing the lower fare band by 10 per cent, while the upper limit has been raised by 30 per cent. These fare bands came into force with effect from May 21, 2020.

Under the fare structure, air routes are divided into seven sections based on travel time. Each section has its minimum and maximum fare. For instance, Delhi-Mumbai ticket price has been fixed at Rs 3,000-Rs 13,000.

Currently, the airlines can operate up to 80 per cent of their pre-Covid capacity.

“These steps were important to protect the industry. No airline in India went burst and the reason for this is the calibrated way in which the whole process was conducted,” he said.

On February 19, 2,90,518 passengers had traveled on 2,360 flights.

Since the resumption of operations on May 25 last year, domestic air traffic continued to sequentially improve in January 2021. Domestic passenger traffic rose 5.55 per cent sequentially in January to 77.34 lakh passengers from 73.27 lakh reported for December 2020.

However, on a year-on-year basis, the January numbers stood 39.50 per cent lower than 127.83 lakh reported for the corresponding period of the previous year.

In terms of growth hinderances, the industry faces challenges such as new state specific flight acceptance and quarantine norms along with a limited flight deployment capacity.

Nevertheless, easing travel restrictions, and initial revival in business sentiment has triggered the growth cycle of the industry.

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