India’s domestic air passenger numbers have been declining since two weeks ago, when Covid cases began to rise and many states began implementing limitations, according to data from the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
The recent increase in covid case numbers has caused demand for air travel to fall, forcing airlines to rework internal schedules – and even cancel flights.
IndiGo, the country’s largest airline, announced on Sunday that 20% of its scheduled flights would be cancelled owing to low demand. Vistara, a full-service carrier, said it is altering capacity to match changing demand. According to an Air India representative, based on the load factor, some flights on routes with numerous daily services are being consolidated.
IndiGo also said that “all new and current bookings” made up to January 31 for flights up to March 31 will be allowed “free changes.”
The Ministry recorded 2.41 lakh air passengers on January 8, down from 3.85 lakh on December 26.
IndiGo’s load factor, which measures demand, was 65.8% on January 8, meaning that nearly 34 out of every 100 seats were unsold. SpiceJet and GoFirst, two low-cost competitors, reported load factors of 68.5 percent and 62.8 percent, respectively.
On Saturday, Air India had a load factor of 67.4 percent, while Vistara and AirAsia India had load factors of 53.6 percent and 59.6 percent, respectively.
IndiGo said in a statement: “Owing to the increasing number of Omicron infections, large numbers of IndiGo customers are changing their travel plans. In response to customer needs, IndiGo is waiving change fees and is offering free changes for all new and existing bookings made up to 31st January, for flights up to 31st March 2022.”
The airline continued, “With the reduced demand, we will also be selectively withdrawing some of our flights from service…We anticipate that around 20 per cent of our current scheduled operations will be withdrawn from service.”
“We are observing a decline in demand for air travel due to the sudden surge in number of Covid-19 cases and travel restrictions/ quarantine requirements imposed by various states. At Vistara, we are monitoring the situation closely and adjusting capacity to demand. We are also trying to minimise the inconvenience to our customers by offering them various options, such as rescheduling or refund, etc., as applicable,” a Vistara spokesperson said.
According to a senior executive of a low-cost airline, idle capacity means the airlines will have to pay for flying half-empty flights in addition to having their rate dynamics affected. The executive said. “There is no question of maintaining the capacity at subdued demand levels. Reducing the capacity will also give some room to adjust the fares so that profitability is not affected as much.”
– India’s new age travel digital media