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BW Businessworld

A Year Of Recovery

The future path for air travel in India will be chartered basis the availability of the vaccine, development of the Covid-19 crisis and how India deals with it

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A decade back, we all had vi­sions and plans for the year 2020. However, this year had a plan of its own. It will be re­membered for the pandemic and how it changed our businesses and lives. As we step into 2021, the underlying potential of the Indian aviation sector gives us enough hope for a reasonable business recovery.

Assessing the outlook for aviation in 2021, we must take into account that it is a neces­sity for many people in India due to the scale of the country, the topography and the alter­nate modes of transport available. Air travel in India has a tremendous room to grow, it is still under penetrated, if we compare inter­nationally. However, the future path for the sector will be chartered basis the availability of the vaccine, development of the Covid-19 crisis and how India deals with it. What will be certainly important for recovery will be continued regaining of consumer confidence in air travel and establishing strong domestic connectivity and international route network.

A Necessity, Not Luxury

Strong growth is expected going forward as air travel plays an important role for passen­gers both in terms of personal and business travel. Many people live and work outside of their home towns, pushing a certain amount of travel in VFR segment (visiting friends & relatives). In fact, India has recovered much faster compared to Europe, America or other continents. In Europe, air transportation has not even reached 20 per cent of pre-Covid lev­els, while in India the overall air traffic is inch­ing up to 50 per cent and at IndiGo we are at 70-80 per cent of pre-Covid operations. India should see further growth in the economy and aviation on the back of pent up demand in all segments, domestic, international and cargo.

The key to business recovery has been re-establishing customer confidence in air travel.

When flight operations resumed post lock­down, people were anxious about air travel. However, we have done well as an industry in communicating our safety and sanitisation measures that have contributed to the resur­gence of air traffic. At IndiGo, we communi­cated our proposition of the ‘lean clean flying machine’ and customers have demonstrated a high confidence level in our product starting with our clean and young aircraft fleet, our well-trained pilots and courteous crew both on ground and in air. 

Domestic Travel To Drive Recovery 

In the near-term, recovery will be driven by domestic travel. The government is already encouraging domestic travel through initia­tives like Dekho Apna Desh and ‘Incredible India’. The need for added safety has bolstered the demand for charter flights over the last few months and is expected to continue with differentiated products like wedding charters. We expect leisure travel to pick up cautiously through the year on the back of the pent-up demand, further accelerated by the advent of the vaccine. 

Another interesting trend has been the shift of rail traffic to air travel, owing to the height­ened safety w.r.t. Covid-19. In fact, over the last few months we have noticed a shift from previous train travellers becoming future air travellers. After all, air transportation also has the added value of shorter travel time. 

International Travel To Pick Up 

The growth in aviation will continue relatively fast going forward into 2021. With a time-lag of a couple of months, international travel should recover and regain its position. Inter­national travel eventually could have a good growth impetus on IndiGo as well as Indian aviation in general. The Covid-19 vaccine will help normalise the situation in India and glob­ally, as many of the current restrictions would disappear over time, making international travel attractive again. After all, we all want to see and experience new places. 

Crisis is always a chance to find more ef­ficient ways of doing business. So, the overall goal is to come out of this crisis stronger and more efficient. Basis our preparations and in­dustry indications, I believe that 2021 will be the year of recovery for not just aviation but the Indian economy at large.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Wolfgang Prock-Schauer

President & COO, IndiGo

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