After The Apocalypse, First Signs of a Revival in Air Travel Industry

by Amitabh Joshi 10 months ago Views 1359

Sometimes, you have to start at the bottom.

On Wednesday, domestic flight operations in India saw 641 departures and 636 arrivals with 116, 979 passengers handled.

There were 1,277 total movements and a total number of 59,291 flyers, according to the Civil Aviation Ministry. This was Day 10 after the partial resumption of domestic air travel. (compare this with Mumbai's International Airport alone handling a record 1,007 aircraft movements in a single day in December 2018),

As flight operations gather pace, the worst may be over for the Indian and global aviation industry. Even so, ‘worst may be over’ is a scary yardstick. Analytics company CRISIL has estimated that India’s aviation sector may face a revenue loss of up to Rs 25,000 crore this fiscal.

Globally, passenger demand in April plunged a historic 94.3% year-on-year with the pandemic virtually freezing air travel. However, between the rock bottom on April 21 and May 27, daily flights rose 30% (IATA data). This, however, is based more on domestic operations resuming.

It’s a heartening sign but fingers are still crossed because of the ever present fears of a second coronavirus wave.

While India has signalled it may resume international flights very soon, the logistics are formidable. Getting idle aircraft off the ground is not the only task. A whole bio-system has to be put into place, from aircraft parking slots to baggage handling to resumption of ATC operations. There will also be the Herculean task of putting up a heavy screening apparatus for COVID-19 checking. An entire chain of connectivity which is intrinsic to international air operations (down 98.4% y-o-y in April)) will have to be up and running even with limited flights.

“Flight numbers are increasing. Countries are beginning to lift mobility restrictions and business confidence is showing improvement in key markets”, says the Director- General of the International Air Transport Association, Alexandre de Juniac.

April was the cruellest month for Asia-Pacific airlines, with a nosedive of 98.0% in international passenger demand compared to April 2019.

While this April may be seen as the nadir of the crisis, the industry will still take a very long time to recover, if at all it does to the levels it was already struggling at before the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is estimated that the global debt of the airline industry could touch $550 billion by year-end, a $120 billion increase over debt levels at the beginning of 2020

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