India's domestic passenger traffic slipped to a 10-year low at an estimated 53.4 million in the just-concluded financial year, a report said.
However, in the previous fiscal there were no passenger flight operations for almost two months due to the pandemic-induced lockdown.
During the financial year 2010-11, all domestic air operators together had flown a total of 53.8 million passengers on local routes, according to ratings agency ICRA.
The domestic passenger traffic in March 2021 has been estimated at around 77-78 lakh, a marginal decline of about 1 per cent over February during which airlines had flown around 78.30 lakh passengers, it said.
“For FY2021 (May 25, 2020 till March 31, 2021), domestic passenger traffic has been pegged at around 53.4 million, a year-on-year decline of about 62 per cent over the fiscal ended March 31, 2020, in line with ICRA's estimates,” it said.
Domestic passenger traffic in March 2021 has been estimated at around 77-78 lakh, implying a flat growth on a y-o-y basis on a low base of March 2020 (which had witnessed a y-o-y decline of 33.1 per cent in domestic passenger traffic) as domestic travel was affected with effect from March 25, Icra said.
Domestic passenger traffic witnesses a flat year-on-year growth in March 2021 owing to low base, Icra said, adding the recent spike in cases poses challenge for sector's recovery.
The airlines' capacity for March 2021 was around 2 per cent higher at around 71,300 departures than 69,910 departures in March.
On a sequential basis, the number of departures in March 2021 were higher by about 11 per cent, Icra said.
For March, the average daily departures were around 2,300, higher than the average daily departures of 2,255 in March 2020, owing to cessation of domestic travel for the last seven days of the month previous fiscal, and marginally higher than around 2,296 in February this year, said Kinjal Shah, vice president ICRA.
Domestic scheduled passenger services were suspended from March 25, 2020 to curb the pandemic, and were resumed only from May 25, 2020.
The average number of passengers per flight during March 2021 was 109, against an average of 111 passengers per flight in March 2020, she said, adding , it is, therefore, expected that the domestic aviation industry operated at a passenger load factor (PLF) of around 72 per cent in March 2021, against a PLF of 73.1 per cent in March 2020, which was also impacted by the pandemic.
"The PLF for March 2021 was lower than the around 79 per cent in February 2021, due to the increase in capacity deployment by about 11 per cent.
“Overall, for FY2021, domestic passenger traffic has been pegged at around 53.4 million, declining 62 per cent over FY 2020 traffic,” Shah said.
Photograph: David Stanway/Reuters