While the travel chaos in Europe has been spoiling the mood of thousands of summer vacationers, largely due to airlines’ inability to cope with the rush, the aviation sector in India promises to be better prepared for hectic summer travel.
Travel demand in Mumbai and Delhi increased by 150% in April, mainly due to international travel, weddings and long weekends. The average daily rate of rooms was 105% higher in Mumbai and 62% higher in Delhi as compared to March, as per data by RateGain Travel Technologies, a global SaaS provider for travel and hospitality.
States like Kerala and Goa, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have witnessed a surge in domestic tourists in the past few months. New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport emerged as the world’s second-busiest airport in March after Atlanta in the US, as per a report by the Official Airline Guide (OAG), a global travel data provider. Airports in Atlanta, Delhi and Dubai handled 4.42 million, 3.61 million and 3.55 million seats, respectively. Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport flagged off over 712 daily flights in summer this year as against 660 in the winter of 2021.
Some surveys have already revealed that passengers are not too happy with services provided by airlines despite the domestic market being flooded with extensive flight offers. For instance, a survey by LocalCircles said 79% of passengers surveyed believed carriers in India were compromising on passenger comfort and cutting corners. Topping the list of most unsatisfactory airlines was SpiceJet, followed by IndiGo and Vistara.
On their part, customer demand, spiralling fuel expenses and airline capacity are a few pain points for carriers. Vistara, a joint venture of Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, plans to expand staff to 5,000 from the current 4,000 this year to meet manpower requirements and scale up frequencies on several international routes. It also aims to have 70 planes by the end of 2023. “Our endeavour is to enhance customer experience across various touch points and upgrade infrastructure to provide a seamless flying experience,” said a Vistara spokesperson.
An IndiGo spokesperson said, “We have more thank you messages than complaints. The focus is on digitisation to ensure contactless travel experience and intervention of technology from check-in to boarding and beyond has helped reduce waiting time at the airport.”
Incidentally, passengers can look forward to services offered by providers other than airlines for a more comfortable flying experience. Baggage drop-off services at airports like CarterX that transfer luggage from home to airport or inter-terminal is just one of them. GMR-led Delhi International Airport (DIAL) offers services like Food@Gate service at Terminal 3 where passengers can order food on interactive self-ordering kiosk and get it near their boarding gates; XOVIS Passenger Tracking System (PTS) reduces waiting time for passenger at a process point; Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID)-enabled personalised luggage tag ‘BAGG TRAX’ shares details in real-time to track check-in baggage. “Passenger experience is a focus area. Such measures enhance experience and operational efficiency so that passengers can enjoy airport surroundings without any fear or stress,” said Videh Kumar Jaipuriar, CEO, DIAL.
In case of Thailand, a popular destination for Indians, Cholada Siddhivarn, director, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Mumbai, told FE, “Load factors from airlines look satisfactory. Before opening the borders for international travellers, our airports and tourist attractions were all well-equipped to handle in-flow”.
International travel in 2021 stood at 25% and recovered to 48% in the first quarter this year, stated the International Air Transport Association (IATA). In some parts of the world, including Europe, North America, and Latin America, the recovery has reached around 60%.