Airlines see 10-12% drop in bookings as states insist on Covid-19 test

Sources at Mumbai airport said seat occupancy has declined from around 70-72 per cent to 60-64 per cent in last three-four days as passengers are postponing or canceling trips
Domestic airlines have seen a 10-12 per cent drop in bookings over the past seven days as state governments have reintroduced measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

West Bengal joined Maharashtra and Karnataka in insisting on negative RT PCR tests for travellers from certain states, which has dampened sentiment. Passengers from Maharashtra and Karnataka will have to undergo seven days of home quarantine in Tamil Nadu under the state’s new rules. The Delhi government, too, is expected to insist on RT PCR tests for passengers from some states.

“Last-minute bookings are not taking place. Inbound loads have dropped to cities where RT-PCR tests have been made compulsory,” said the senior executive of a private airline. An executive of another airline said the impact is around 20 per cent. At present, around 40-50 per cent of tickets are being booked in the week before travel, compared with 20-30 per cent in pre-Covid time. 

Sources at Mumbai airport said seat occupancy has declined from around 70-72 per cent to 60-64 per cent in last three-four days as passengers are postponing or canceling trips.

Domestic air traffic slipped to a seven-year low in 2020 because of the nationwide lockdown and reduction in capacity. In calendar year 2020, domestic airlines flew 63 million passengers, compared with 144.1 million the previous year. In January, airlines flew 7.7 million passengers, which was 39 per cent lower than January 2020.

The Leisure and visiting family and relatives (VFR) segment is leading the recovery, while corporate travel remains weak. Travel portals, however, are optimistic of a revival in traffic. Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, too, expects domestic traffic to reach pre-Covid levels by the first week of April.

“Leisure and VFR segments have picked up and are now at 70-80 per cent of pre-Covid levels. However, corporate bookings are still at 15-20 per cent of pre-Covid level. There's a further impact on bookings in business  travel segment due to RT PCR restrictions and we have seen 10 per cent decline in volumes in metro markets. But the dip in bookings is small and we feel business will recover soon,” said Sabina Chopra, co-founder and chief operating officer (corporate travel),

“The recent announcements by state governments of test requirements have contributed to increased uncertainty and, thus, impacted demand, especially on routes where the requirements are applicable. States like Maharashtra, Delhi, and Karnataka are critical hubs of India’s aviation market. From a business recovery perspective, we expect this to be a temporary blip and expect the larger recovery trend to continue. As the vaccination drive covers larger sections of the country, we will see demand bouncing back,” said Rajiv Subramanian, vice president,

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