NEW DELHI: From 3 lakh passengers a day in mid-February, the average number of daily flyers has now fallen below 50,000, highlighting the extent of damage caused by second Covid-19 wave on the country’s aviation sector. According to data from the Airports Authority of India and ICRA Research, the average daily number of departing passengers in March 2021 stood at 2.49 lakh and declined by 28% month-on-month in April 2021 to 1.79 lakh. There was a further dip of 56% from May 1 to May 16, compared to the average of April 2021. For the week ended May 23, the average number of daily flyers stood at just 49,000.
“In addition to passengers being apprehensive about air travel, increase in infections forced many state governments to implement strict Covid-19 restrictions during last two months on air travel. The second wave of Covid-19 infections is likely to delay recovery in traffic,” said Shubham Jain, senior vice-president (corporate ratings), at ICRA. He added, “The passenger traffic growth is now estimated at 80-85% in FY22 against earlier projection of 130-135%.”
The rating agency expects domestic air travel to recover to pre-Covid levels by FY23 and international by FY24.Aviation consultant firm CAPA says the crisis in the Indian aviation sector caused by the second wave has reached a “point of no return”. To survive the pandemic, a few airlines have taken the radical route of cutting and deferring salaries of its workforce. SpiceJet has deferred up to 50% of the April salary of a significant section of employees. Some other airlines are also continuing with salary cuts it had implemented last year.
On Sunday, SpiceJet chairman and managing director Ajay Singh told his staff that this year has been especifically difficult. While greeting his employees as the airline completed 16 years, Singh noted that India is battling a brutal second wave of the pandemic and the aviation sector is flying at less than 10%of its pre-covid capacity, hinting that recovery will take more time than earlier thought.