COVID surge puts brakes on air traffic at Bengaluru airport after rapid growth last year

Domestic passenger traffic had grown by 22% last year over that of 2020, to 15.2 million from 12.39 million holding much promise for 2022

Published: 24th January 2022 08:03 PM  |   Last Updated: 24th January 2022 08:03 PM   |  A+A-

Nasal Swabs being collected from flyers for Covid RT-PCR tests at Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru

Nasal Swabs being collected from flyers for Covid RT-PCR tests at Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru. (Photo | Twitter, @BLRAirport)

By Express News Service

BENGALURU: Domestic passenger traffic at Kempegowda International Airport (KIA), which was beginning to show rapid growth in 2021, has dipped this year due to the Omicron variant and surge in COVID cases across the country. Domestic passenger traffic had grown by 22% last year over that of 2020, to 15.2 million from 12.39 million holding much promise for 2022.

An official release from airport operator Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) said that travel restrictions across the globe and limitations on seat loads had resulted in international passenger traffic shrinking to 0.94 million last year from 1.12 million in 2020.

“The positive environment in 2021 ignited hopes for a better 2022 in terms of recovery. However, the recent outbreak of the new Omicron variant followed by a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases across the country is expected to suppress growth further,” said BIAL CEO Hari Marar in a statement. “We believe that air traffic will eventually recover. However, the pace of recovery will depend on factors such as favourable policies by regulators and easing of travel restrictions across the country and the globe, amongst others,” he added.

Highest ever cargo

Despite the turbulence caused by the pandemic, the airport recorded its highest ever cargo tonnage in 2021. It processed an all-time high tonnage of 406,688 Metric Tonnes (MT), recording a significant growth of 28.6% over 316,305 MT in 2020. This is higher than the pre-COVID level tonnage of 379,348 MT in 2019 by 7.2%. In 2021, international cargo recorded a 32.8% growth over 2020 while domestic cargo recorded a 21.3% growth. The US and Europe continue to be the top trade lanes from BLR Airport.

“The tremendous recovery in air cargo is a positive sign for the aviation sector that has been severely impacted by the pandemic,” Marar said.

13 airlines operate freighters to and from Bengaluru airport to various domestic and international destination, the release said. Perishables (agricultural and poultry products), pharma, chemicals and textiles in the exports category while electronics, heavy machineries, healthcare and life science products in the imports category were driving the growth, the release said.

14 new domestic routes

Air Traffic Movements (arrivals and departures) at BLR Airport were up by 22.5% in CY 2021, with the total ATMs during this period being 1,53,212. Both domestic and international movements saw an upward trend of 23.8% and 12%, respectively. The highest single-day ATMs was 590, registered on December 19, 2021, while the daily average ATMs for CY 2021 was 420 per day.

The year also saw a significant growth in number of domestic destinations from 54 (pre-COVID) to 74, the highest ever at the airport. Enhanced connectivity to Tier-2 & Tier-3 cities were responsible for this. A total of 14 new routes were introduced last year from Bengaluru to Agra, Bareilly, Dibrugarh, Dimapur, Nashik, Silchar, Jamnagar, Jharsuguda, Jorhat, Jaisalmer, Kurnool, Rajkot, Durgapur and Kanpur. Altogether 20 international destinations are presently covered under the Centre’s Air Bubble arrangements.

KIA has established itself as the most preferred transit destination in South India. The top five domestic routes were Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Goa, accounting for 40% of the traffic. On the international front, Dubai, Male, Doha, London and Frankfurt were the top cities and contributed to 70% of the traffic.

This year, United Airlines and American Airlines are expected to commence operations to San Francisco and Seattle, respectively. A historic achievement in international traffic was recorded in 2021 by commencing the non-stop Bengaluru-San Francisco service twice a year. Japan Airlines commenced flights under the Air Bubble arrangement between Bengaluru-Tokyo Narita from March 2021.


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