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India’s outbound passenger number doubles in January-March 2023

India’s international passenger numbers have almost doubled during the first three months of 2023, compared to the same period in 2022, data from the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has shown, with travel agents attributing the trend to a surge in demand for flying abroad and supported by G-20 meetings being held in India. According to the data, the number of international passengers rose 121.9% in January, 109.2% in February, and 61% in March this year as compared to a year ago. While the first three months of any calendar year are traditionally non-peak quarters for air travel, these three months in 2022 were also when travel was muted due to the outbreak of the Omicron variant, which first spread in South Africa at the end of 2021 before triggering the last global Covid-19 wave. The growth in international passengers at Indian airports, however, sustained in April as well, when it grew by 43% over the same month last year. Data also shows that the passenger growth registered similar numbers during the month of November and December too, which are traditionally peak months for air travel.

The growth numbers during recent months beat the growth recorded during the months before Covid but those had a higher base. “Indians have started travelling internationally on leisure and these numbers only indicate the increasing air travel demand,” said Ajay Prakash, president, Travel Agents Federation of India. Business travel in the international sector, however, continues to be under stress, analysts added. “There are multiple reasons for the tremendous growth in international traffic and this year it is majorly due to the G20 and so we are waiting to see the sentiments after September. However, business travel has seen the least growth as Covid has promoted virtual meets,” said Jyoti Mayal, president, Travel Agents Association of India.

In January, 2023, the number of international passengers carried at the AAI airports (5.7 million) was still fewer than the numbers (6.49 million) in January, 2020 – implying the surge was still not enough to take travel to pre-pandemic levels although this could also be skewed by several factors, such as the war in Ukraine and high inflation in many parts of the world. She added students and visiting friends and relatives (VFR) were contributing the most to the growth in international travel. “Students and their parents travelling for graduation ceremonies have resumed in full swing,” she added. India has been an outlier in terms of return of air passengers after the pandemic and airlines in the country continue to register record passenger numbers despite Go First, which flew about 7% of the total domestic passengers, suspending flight operations on May 3. (Source: The HT)

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