By Aritra Banerjee
Domestic air passenger traffic grew by ~15-16% at around 104-105 lakh in November 2021, compared to ~89.85 lakh in October 2021. The same reflects a Y-o-Y growth of ~64%. The airlines’ capacity deployment for November 2021 was around 49% higher than November 2020 (~80,750 departures in November 2021 against 54,132 departures in November 2020). On a sequential basis, the number of departures in November 2021 was higher by ~12%, as Covid-19 infections demonstrated a downward trajectory.
Mr Suprio Banerjee, Vice President & Sector Head, ICRA, said, “For November 2021, the average daily departures were at ~2,700, significantly higher than the average daily departures of 1806 in November 2020, and higher than ~2,400 in October 2021. The average number of passengers per flight during November 2021 was close to ~129, against an average of 125 passengers per flight in October 2021.
Though the recovery continued in November 2021, demand continues to be subdued from the corporate traveller segment, as reflected by the passenger traffic being lower by ~19% in November 2021 compared to pre-Covid levels. Moreover, the threat of a new variant, which has pushed the resumption of scheduled international operations, has the potential to derail the domestic recovery, too, if it becomes a source of a fresh round of lockdowns/restrictions in the near term.
From October 18, 2021, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) restored the permitted capacity to 100.0% for domestic operations. It may be recalled that the MoCA had reduced the permissible capacity deployment to 50% of pre-Covid levels, with effect from June 01, 2021, due to the resurgence of the second wave of the pandemic. It had subsequently increased the permitted capacity to 72.5%, with effect from August 12, 2021, increasing the capacity further to 85.0% with effect from September 18, 2021.
As for scheduled international operations, it is to be noted that as of November 26, 2021 circular, the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had directed the resumption of scheduled International operations from December 15, 2021, onwards with certain riders related to Covid-19 linked risk categorisation of destination countries. However, as of the December 1, 2021 circular, the resumption of scheduled international operations has been put on hold till further notice, given the threat of the recent emergence of new variants of Covid-19.
Under the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) for evacuation of Indian citizens from foreign countries, which started from May 07, 2020, international passenger traffic (inbound and outbound) for Indian carriers stood at ~57 lakh for the period May 07, 2020, to November 30, 2021. For November 2021, international passenger traffic for Indian carriers under the VBM was estimated at ~6.1 lakh, a sequential growth of ~15%.
A significant concern that continues to worry the aviation sector is the aviation turbine fuel (ATF) prices, which have seen a sharp increase of 67.3% on a Y-o-Y basis till December 2021; this is mainly attributed to a rise in the industry crude oil prices. This, coupled with relatively low capacity utilisation of aircraft fleet, will continue to weigh on the financial performance of Indian carriers in FY2022. Furthermore, the credit profile of most Indian carriers continues to be characterised by a weak liquidity position