For the first time since Covid hit air travel two years ago, over four lakh passengers boarded domestic flights in a single day across India, setting a new record for trips taken during the pandemic. The April 17 Super Sunday passenger volume was about 96 % of pre-pandemic daily average.
Sunday’s figures improved on the previous pandemic-time record of 3.9 lakh passengers flying within the country on 2,866 flights on Thursday, April 14.
The past two summers were consumed by the Covid first wave and second wave, making this the first summer after two years that could see the return of the conventional peak travel season. But it was a combination of long weekend, festivals and summer vacations that had Sunday, which is the most popular day of the week to board a flight, register the magical number. Though per day passenger volumes are expected to dip to below four lakh this week, the next seven weeks of summer are likely to see higher passenger volumes than in December, said airline sources.
But these factors were not enough to see a similar record breaking moment at the Mumbai airport. It handled about 96,500 domestic passengers on Sunday, said a Mumbai International Airport Ltd spokesperson. The city airport’s current record for pandemic travel is a lakh passengers per day, achieved in December.
“The Super Sunday also marked the end of Covid third wave effect. Domestic passenger traffic is back to what was seen in December last year,” an airline official, who requested anonymity, said.
Passenger traffic was on a steady rise in the second half of 2021, recovering from the effects of the Covid second wave that hit in summer 2021. In September, the government had eased capacity restrictions, allowing airlines to add flights. That coupled with long weekends brought on by festivals saw domestic passenger traffic on an upswing, right up to Diwali and year-end when airports across India registered record volumes of travellers.
Data shared by the ministry of civil aviation showed that India’s per day domestic flyer traffic crossed 3.8 lakh on 11 days between November 14 and December 26. Then the Covid third wave hit and travel slumped, falling to about 1.4 lakh domestic flyers per day (January 19) in a matter of weeks. After February 4, though, domestic passenger traffic stayed over two lakh per day, making a slow and steady climb to cross four lakh passengers per day on April 17