‘Passenger traffic at small airports recovering faster’

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on October 15, 2020

Lag in larger airports is due to various reasons including stringent travel restrictions

Domestic air traffic seems to be recovering faster at smaller airports as compared with those in the larger cities and metros. However, the numbers have not reached pre-Covid levels anywhere as yet.


The latest data available with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) shows that recovery at some smaller airports like Pathankot has been swift. Pathankot saw 949 passengers pass through it in August, which was a decline of only 7.3 per cent from 1,024 passengers in August last year. No data is available after August.

Key reasons

Similarly, Gorakhpur airport in Uttar Pradesh handled 44,200 passengers in August, a decline of 8.2 per cent as compared over 48,170 passengers who went through the airport in August 2019 and Prayagraj saw 30,484 passengers, a decline of 12.2 per cent as compared with 34,710 in the same month last year.

Various reasons are being given for this faster recovery at smaller airports. According to Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, Director & Practice Leader – Transport & Logistics, CRISIL Infrastructure Advisory, “Multiple factors have contributed to this, not many restrictions for scheduled flights, many IT/ ITeS employees moving to their home towns considering the longish work from home and airlines being the more preferred mode in comparison to AC class in trains,” he says. Padmanabhan is optimistic that Tier-2 cities will probably reach pre-Covid levels faster than the major airports during the upcoming festival season. However, not all smaller airports have registered such promising numbers. For instance, Tiruchi still is 30 per cent lower in August at 16,613 (23,703) and Dibrugarh saw a 41.9 per cent fall at 23,530 (40,496).

Metro cities lag

There are various reasons for these diverse numbers. States followed different rules on opening up and thus airports in some States are showing more footfalls than others.

Hence, since most of the States in South India followed more stringent unlocking procedures, the passenger numbers at airports are much lower than what they were in August last year. At Chennai airport, the passenger numbers are 83.6 per cent lower than they were in August last year and in Madurai they are 66.6 per cent lower.


But compared to passenger numbers at metro airports, the recovery at smaller airports is much better.

The number of people flying from metro airports like Delhi, which is the busiest in the country, is larger as compared to the smaller airports though reaching pre-Covid levels at these airports is a long way off.

For example, Delhi airport handled 1.13 million passengers in August (4.27 million), a decline of 73.5 per cent.


Similarly, Bengaluru airport saw 6.2 lakh passengers passing through in August. However, this was a decline of 73.4 per cent as it handled 23.6 lakh passengers previously.

Restrictions on the number of flights that the Maharashtra government allowed, meant that Mumbai airport handled just about 400,000 passengers in August, registering a decline of 86.2 per cent over the 29.6 lakh passengers previously.

According to Kapil Kaul, Chief Executive Officer and Director, CAPA, India, the road to recovery for Indian aviation is still long as air travel demand continues to be largely restricted to essential and emergency travel. He also does not see the situation changing any time soon.


Published on October 14, 2020

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