Daily air passenger numbers are likely to exceed pre-pandemic levels in the next two months, civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said Monday.
At an event, the minister urged states to cut taxes on jet fuel to boost the country’s aviation sector.
During the pre-pandemic times, domestic airlines carried about four lakh passengers per day and the number started to rise after the second wave but declined again after the rise of Omicron infections late last year.
Airlines were allowed to operate at full capacity from October 18, 2021.
“In November, December, we started to reach passenger numbers from 3.8 to 3.9 lakh per day. We were almost back to pre-Covid levels. With Omicron, the number of passengers refueled dropped to 1.6 lakh per day. So we had a contraction of about 65-70 percent,” the minister said.
“All things being equal, in the next two months you should see us exceed the pre-Covid level in terms of daily passengers … that will usher in new demand, new capacity coming in, both at airports and airlines, Scindia said.
Last month, domestic airlines carried 64.08 lakh passengers, down 17.14 percent from the same period a year ago. In January last year, traffic amounted to 77.34 lakh passengers, according to data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The country’s civil aviation sector has been significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the sector’s loss amounted to about Rs 19,000 crore in its latest fiscal year ending March 2021.
In the wake of the pandemic, domestic commercial flights were suspended for two months from March 25, 2020, while commercial international flights remain suspended since March 23, 2020. At present, overseas flights are operated under bilateral air bubble arrangements.
Mr. Scindia also urged states to reduce the value-added tax (VAT) levied on air turbine fuel (ATF), which makes up about 40 percent of an airline’s operating costs.
The minister said 24 states and union territories have reduced VAT on aviation fuel.