India’s domestic aviation sector experiences remarkable growth as the number of passengers carried by airlines from January to May grew over 36 per cent compared to the previous year, according to government data. Among domestic airlines, Indigo, Vistara, and Air Asia got an increase in market share.
The many positives for the Indian aviation sector
1. Showing a recovery from Covid-19 induced slump, domestic airlines carried 636.07 lakh passengers from January-May, marking a 36.10% annual increase compared to the same period last year.
2. Passenger count rosed from 114.67 lakhs in May 2022 to 132.41 lakhs in May 2023, a 15.24% growth.
3. May this year saw a 2.52% increase (3.26 lakhs) in passenger numbers compared to April.
4. Higher load factor indicates rising demand for air transportation underscoring the favourable direction of the aviation industry.
5. Scheduled domestic airlines received 556 passenger complaints in May 2023, down from 746 in May 2019.
Minister Scindia says it is ‘collaborative efforts of all stakeholders’
Union minister of civil aviation and steel Jyotiraditya Scindia said, “The collaborative efforts of all stakeholders have played a crucial role in propelling the growth of the aviation sector and establishing India as a prominent global aviation hub.”
He added that the expansion of the domestic airline industry and the birth of regional airlines are strengthening the Indian economy while ensuring last-mile connectivity through the UDAN Scheme.
“Following the Covid-19 pandemic, airlines have shown resilience by providing smooth and hassle-free travel experiences for passengers, along with improved air services,” he added.
But travellers continue to suffer from higher ticket prices
However, expensive airfares on a number of routes are drawing complaints from travellers. Minister Scindia was recently made aware of the issue when it was brought out that tickets from Delhi to Leh cost just ₹4,000 less than those from Delhi to Paris.
Study revealed that it is caused by rising demand while stagnant supply. In the current month, airlines provide over 460,000 tickets each day, which is approximately comparable to what they did in June 2019.
However, the demand has increased by around 9%, with on June 5 418,619 passengers flown compared to 383,000 passengers per day in the same month in 2019.
Due to high demand, a return air ticket from Delhi to Srinagar these days can cost anywhere between Rs 25,000 and Rs 40,000. This makes some holiday destinations abroad such as the UAE, Thailand and Malaysia look cheaper with return air ticket per person costing as low as Rs 18,000.
“We travelled to Kashmir by bus. We could have come by air but tickets were so costly. At such prices, we could go to Dubai as well,” Rajesh, a tourist from Gujarat, told PTI.
Varsha Mankwada also took a bus to Kashmir in view the expensive airfares. “The air tickets were so expensive. To and fro fare was around Rs 25,000. So, we came through travel agency by bus. Comparatively it was reasonable,” she said.
Tushar Bhai, hailing from Gujarat, travelled to Srinagar by a flight from Mumbai. “I came here from Mumbai. We planned travel according to our budget but it has cost us dear. From Mumbai to Srinagar, it costs us Rs 16,000 per person,” he said. “We came here to see this beautiful place but we feel it’s too expensive to travel to Kashmir. I think we may have got cheaper tickets if we were to travel somewhere else,” he added.
Sanjeev, also from Gujarat, had a similar story to tell. “The ticket cost us Rs 16,000 and they (airline) even don’t offer anything complimentary…,” he said.
Aashish from Delhi said this fare hike may be due to the peak tourism season. “We gave a thought to cancel this trip but we are newlyweds. I visited here 2018 in same season as well but that time I didn’t feel it was so expensive,” he added.
Nikhil said the cost of air tickets should be reduced so that more and more tourists can visit Kashmir. Some of the tourists said they had booked cheap fares with Go First as early as January but its flights were cancelled after the private carrier filed for insolvency earlier this month.
Manzoor Ahmad Pakthoon, the owner of Silkroute Holidays, said the rise in airfares was badly affecting tourism. “As far as airfares are concerned, it’s badly hitting the tourism sector. We are committed to the packages we have sold but we cannot commit on behalf of the airlines. Due to rising fares, many tourists are cancelling their bookings,” he said.
Manzoor Ahmad Wangnoo, the president of Nigeen Tourist Traders Association, said the high airfares were affecting the tourism fraternity here. “We have seen businesses flourishing in the last two years. Hotels, guest houses, houseboats are full and shikara and ponywallas all were happy but unfortunately this airfare hike really affected us in last two months,” Wangnoo said.
He said middle-class families prefer to travel to the UAE when airfares to Kashmir shoot up. “When a family of four or five people cannot afford, they prefer to go to Dubai and other places rather than visit to Kashmir.
“I personally suggest…the Civil Aviation Ministry to take this issue seriously and put some kind of a cap on air fares so that the middle-class tourists can come here,” he added.