In what may come as a relief for airline companies, the number of domestic air travellers between January and March showed a healthy increase over the same period a year ago, when the industry was feeling the heat of the global recession.
More than 12 million passengers were carried by domestic airlines between the January-March period this year, almost 21 per cent more than 9.98 million during the same period last year, according to figures released by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
While Jet Airways and JetLite together account for about 26 per cent of these increase, Kingfisher Airlines accounts for 23 per cent, followed by National Aviation Company of India Ltd (Nacil), which flies under the Air India brand, came a close third at 17.8 per cent.
“This is a good sign for the industry. The recession is over and people are flying again. The trend will only go upward,” said Raajeev B Batra, executive director, KPMG.
Tour operators are rejoicing the return of the domestic travellers. “These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. India for Indians is finally being marketed and there’s going to be no lean season going forward. Travellers are typically looking at 3-4 night weekend getaways for Sikkim, Pondicherry along with Dubai and Singapore,” says Nalini Gupta, MD, Lotus Destinations.
With the number of travellers rising, airlines have also increased their airfares to offset the increase in the prices of aviation turbine fuel (ATF). For the fourth time in two months, state-owned oil retailers raised ATF prices, most recently by 3.2 per cent. Most airlines have increased their fares by about 10 per cent and some like Jet Airways plan to increase their fares by 10-15 per cent in the near future.
“I don’t think business travel will be affected by rise in airfares. People who travel for leisure may rethink their plans, but not in significant proportions. After all, affordability is the reason so many people are flying. They pay for the value of their time,” said KPMG’s Batra.
Mumbai International Aiport Ltd has also reached pre-recession levels in passenger traffic. It handled about 25.7 million passengers in 2009-10, both domestic and international, compared with the 2007-08 levels of 25.9 million passengers.