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Domestic Air Passenger Traffic in May 2022 Nears Pre-covid Levels: ICRA

The waning Covid-19 infections resulted in Y-o-Y growth of 4.4 times in domestic air passenger traffic to ~11.4 million in May 2022 (2.1 million in May 2021) and was just ~7% lower compared to ~12.2 million in May 2019 (pre-Covid level).

Sequentially, the domestic air passenger traffic in May 2022 was ~5% higher compared to ~10.9 million in April 2022. The airlines’ capacity deployment for May 2022 was 2.1 times higher than in May 2021 (86,289 departures in May 2022 against 27,725 departures in May 2021).

On a sequential basis, the number of departures in May 2022 was higher by around 6%, given the near normalcy seen in business operations.

Commenting further, Suprio Banerjee, Vice President & Sector Head, ICRA said, “For May 2022, the average daily departures were at ~2,784, notably higher than the average daily departures of ~894 in May 2021, and higher compared to ~2,726 in April 2022. The average number of passengers per flight during May 2022 was 132, against an average of 133 passengers per flight in April 2022 and lower than an average of 139 passengers per flight in May 2019.

“Though recovery in passenger traffic is expected to be relatively fast paced in FY2023, given the near normalcy situation seen in domestic airline operations, the overhang of any further Covid wave looms on the sector. Elevated ATF prices aggravated by geo-political issues will remain a near term challenge for the industry and will continue to weigh on the profitability of Indian carriers. It is estimated that the yields^ for domestic routes have moved up on an average between 18-20% over the past 12 months.”

With the resumption of scheduled international operations since March 27, 2022, and reversion to bilaterally agreed capacity entitlements, the international passenger traffic for Indian carriers is on a growth trajectory and surged to ~2.2 million in May 2022, which has notably surpassed the international passenger traffic of ~1.8 million witnessed in May 2019 (pre-Covid level) by ~24%.

ATF prices have surged by 89.7% on a Y-o-Y basis in June 2022, given the elevated crude oil prices, due to geo-political issues arising from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The rising ATF prices will pose a serious threat to the industry earnings in FY2023. On an aggregate basis, a return to normalcy will lead to recovery in passenger load factors, which in turn will aid revenues; however, elevated ATF prices will continue to weigh on the earnings of Indian carriers in FY2023.

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