Despite a lackluster Diwali season, air traffic in India reached unprecedented heights during the World Cup final. Saturday witnessed a staggering number of almost 460,000 domestic flyers, setting a new record. This surge in air travel defied the expectations of industry experts, who attributed the subdued Diwali numbers to exorbitantly high advance fares set by airlines in anticipation of a prosperous festive period.
The steep fares compelled many travelers to reconsider their options and instead opt for the air-conditioned classes of premium trains. Union Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia hailed the occasion as a “historic milestone for the Indian aviation sector,” underscoring the significance of the record-breaking figure of 456,748 domestic passengers on November 18.
Mumbai Airport also experienced its highest daily passenger traffic on Saturday, surpassing all previous records. Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani celebrated this achievement, noting that the single-runway airport served a remarkable 161,760 passengers on that day alone.
The exceptional surge in air travel came as a surprise after a lackluster November, during which domestic air travel remained unexpectedly subdued. Unlike previous festive seasons, airlines increased advance booking fares in September, deterring many potential passengers from booking flights. Consequently, the airlines were forced to reduce fares during the peak travel season to entice price-conscious travelers back into the air.
This unusual reversal of fare dynamics left industry veterans perplexed, as lower advance fares and higher spot fares are typically the norm. An anonymous airline veteran explained that due to the high advance fares, people turned to booking AC class train tickets, fearing the unavailability of train reservations closer to their travel dates. However, once the peak travel season arrived, airlines found themselves with fewer bookings and adjusted fares accordingly.
Despite the explanation offered by the airline industry, the low passenger numbers during Diwali remain a puzzling phenomenon. Some speculate that this year, people opted for more celebrations and get-togethers rather than travel, following the previous year’s rush. Additionally, the surge in air traffic on November 18 can be attributed to the excitement surrounding the World Cup and the popularity of the cricket matches.
Aviation analyst Ameya Joshi attributed the surge in air travel on Saturday to factors such as return traffic, Chath Puja, and the weekend preceding the start of the school year. He pointed out that although the total number of domestic flyers in the first 18 days of November (7.24 million) was slightly lower than the same period in October (7.34 million), the surge in air travel during the World Cup final demonstrated the resilience and adaptability of the Indian aviation sector.
1. Why did air traffic increase during the World Cup final when Diwali saw fewer passengers?
The surge in air traffic during the World Cup final can be attributed to a combination of factors, including return traffic, the Chath Puja festival, and the popularity of cricket. In contrast, the subdued Diwali numbers were the result of high advance fares set by airlines, making travelers opt for other transportation options.
2. Why did airlines reduce fares during the peak travel season?
Airlines had initially increased advance booking fares in anticipation of a prosperous festive season. However, due to low passenger numbers, they were forced to lower fares to attract price-conscious travelers back into the air.
3. What factors contributed to the record-breaking air traffic numbers?
Apart from the World Cup final, factors such as return traffic, the Chath Puja festival, and the weekend before the start of the school year played a significant role in driving the surge in air travel on November 18. These factors combined to create a historic milestone for the Indian aviation sector.