In a surprising turn of events, the World Cup final managed to achieve what Diwali couldn’t this year 2023 a significant boost to air traffic. On Saturday, a staggering 4.6 lakh domestic flyers took to the skies, marking the highest-ever figure recorded in a single day.
The Diwali season, typically associated with an increase in travel, experienced an unexpected decrease in daily flyer numbers, often falling below four lakh. Industry insiders attribute this decline to the exorbitant advance prices set by airlines over a month before Diwali, they were expecting robust travel during the festive season. However, these high prices led many travelers to opt for the more economical AC classes of premium trains.
Union Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia celebrated the milestone on Sunday, tweeting, “A historic milestone for the Indian aviation sector! On November 18, we have set a new record by carrying 4,56,748 domestic passengers.”
Mumbai Airport also achieved a historic feat on the same day, handling its highest-ever one-day traffic. Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani shared the news on Twitter, stating, “A historic achievement! Mumbai Airport’s new milestone — a single-runway airport serving a record-breaking 1,61,760 passengers in a single day on November 18 2023.”
The surge in air travel came after a subdued November, with domestic air travel remaining unexpectedly low during what is typically a festive period marked by increased travel.
Airlines had initially raised advance booking fares from September-end for travel during the festive season in late October. This move, however, dissuaded many travelers who, concerned about high fares, opted for AC class train travel instead. Recognizing the lackluster demand, airlines eventually lowered fares during the peak travel season, a departure from the usual trend of lower advance and higher spot fares.
The aviation industry experienced a peculiar situation when, on October 5, IndiGo announced a fuel surcharge ranging from Rs 300 to Rs 1,000. Contrary to expectations, other airlines did not follow suit due to weak traveler numbers. Spot fares continued to drop during the peak travel season, enticing price-conscious travelers back into the air.
A senior official at a leading Indian airline commented on the Diwali low, stating, “Diwali low is something we cannot explain or attribute specifically. Probably less travel this year and more celebration and get-togethers after last year’s rush. Saturday (November 18 record) was mostly due to the optimism around the World Cup! Tickets to Ahmedabad were selling like hot cakes.”
Aviation analyst Ameya Joshi provided further insights, stating, “Saturday’s surge was driven by return traffic, Chath puja, and cricket. While the outbound traffic is scattered, return gets timed to the weekend before schools start, which was on November 18. At 72.4 lakh, the total number of domestic flyers in the first 18 days of November is less than that recorded in the first 18 days of October at 73.4 lakh.”
Key Facts and Figures:
- The previous record for domestic air travel in India was set on January 7, 2023, with 4,59,284 passengers.
- The average daily domestic air traffic in November 2023 was 4.2 lakh, down from 4.3 lakh in October 2023.
- The total number of domestic flyers in the first 18 days of November 2023 was 72.4 lakh, compared to 73.4 lakh in the first 18 days of October 2023.
- The decline in air travel during the Diwali season is estimated to have cost airlines around Rs 2,000 crore in revenue.
- The Indian aviation industry is expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2024-2025.
In conclusion, the unexpected surge in air travel on World Cup Eve has not only set a new record but has also provided a much-needed lift to the aviation sector after a subdued Diwali season.