The announcement by Singapore Airlines (SIA), to restore their pre-Covid 19 schedules in the India market by October 30th 2022 is a validation that air travel has picked up and airlines expect demand from India to grow in the months ahead.
This follows close on the heels of Emirates, which restored their capacity to India to pre-Covid levels in April this year. With this, Emirates now operates 170 flights per week from different points in India.
From the beginning of 2022, airlines that see India as a big opportunity have gradually increased their capacity in the Indian market. The Indian market holds a huge opportunity for global airlines. Indians travel across the world for education, VFR, business and leisure.
According to consulting firm RedSeer, which published a report last year, the number of Indian students opting for higher education abroad grew from 440,000 in 2016 to 770,000 in 2019 and is set to grow further to approximately 1.8 million by 2024. This along with the VFR traffic associated with this segment provides airlines with a compelling opportunity to focus on the Indian market.
Many more airlines have announced plans to operate flights from India and this augurs well for the travel and tourism industry. In a few months, the Indian inbound season is set to begin and large captive markets in Europe and the Far East with its airline connectivity will enable us to attract traffic to the Indian subcontinent.
The world is seeing inflation rising to levels not seen in decades. Due to limited capacity, airfares in the India sector were quite high and this discouraged many people from travelling to India. The restoration of air services is bound to make travel to and from India affordable and encourage the growth of traffic.
The Indian MICE segment is another big opportunity for the outbound sector. This market is price sensitive and they depend on competitive airfares and reasonably priced destinations. The increase in air seat capacity to the Middle East and the Far East will encourage corporates to reward their top performers with a valuable holiday that was missing from their bucket list for two years.
Revenge travel is here to stay for some time. Airlines have understood the immense potential that India has to offer in this regard. China for instance is going through its Covid-19 waves and is reluctant to open its borders fully. This is an opportunity for airlines to focus on India.
In India, the government has made it clear that Indian carriers such as Air India, Indigo and others will be given preference when it comes to renegotiation of bilaterals. This will strengthen Indian carriers and also provide direct connectivity from key Indian destinations to long-haul points in the USA and Europe.
The opening up and the confidence that global carriers have in India is an endorsement of the potential in the country.