New Normal in Air Travel to be the Old Normal

Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri believes air travel in India is poised to reach full capacity by mid-January 2021
Civil aviation is close to operating at 80% capacity already
Civil aviation is close to operating at 80% capacity already

As far as travel goes, all sorts of predictions and estimates concerning how tourism will transform have been arrived at ever since the pandemic struck. But if Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri is to be believed, the new normal in terms of air travel would reach the old normal by the end of this year or the beginning of the next.

This comes after it was reported in September that passenger had fallen to 20% and Indian carrier revenue had plummeted by seven times (from Rs 25,517 cr in April-June 2019 to Rs 3,651 cr in April-June 2020). The cap on domestic flights was also relaxed recently.

Puri, speaking at the valedictory session of Deccan Dialogue, the annual flagship event of the Indian School of Business, said that the industry was already operating at 70% capacity and aiming at 80% very soon. &ldquoWe opened civil aviation on May 25, a good two months and two days after we have completely locked down&mdashwith 30,000 passengers on a day.&rdquo

The 68-year-old, virtually attending the event, said that operating at full capacity would mean that the safety protocols in place currently are ramped up. &ldquoI&rsquom confident that by the end of the year, by December 31 or soon thereafter&hellip means a week or two weeks thereafter, we will be back to pre-COVID levels,&rdquo he said, adding, &ldquoThat requires, in turn, that we continue to maintain the existing safety protocols, strengthen them and are able to adapt.&rdquo

India currently has air travel bubbles/travel arrangements with 20 countries including Asian neighbours Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Bhutan and major trade partners such as US, Germany and France. Ideas to kickstart tourism afresh are also being mulled over, including experiences such as flights to nowhere

Puri also vowed to provide the necessary boost to the civil aviation sector, including roughly 100 new airports and fleet expansion from 750 to 2000. He also spoke about securing better aviation GDP and higher profits for Indian carriers, talking about how the latter get only a meagre 17% out of the purported annual number of $7 billion of air traffic between India and the US.

&ldquoHow much do Indian carriers get out of that traffic&hellip a mere 17%. It is not as if the American carriers are getting the remaining 83%. I am not going to say who is getting it. But I see no reason why the Indian flagship carrier or the private sector carrier should not be earning more money flying passengers,&rdquo Puri asserted.

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