India’s aviation industry is the third largest domestic passenger traffic market in the world, next to the US and China and has a crucial role to play in the global aviation sector.

So, what happens here is watched globally.

Indian domestic air market rebounded quickly post Covid irrespective of the increase in ATF prices, fare caps, and Covid protocols in airports and during the in-flight experience. Airlines, airports, and online travel service providers had a huge role to play in enabling consumers to travel again with confidence.

Some airlines worked with social media influencers to convey safe air travel. Web check-in was mandated, which ensured minimal physical touchpoints at the airport. Also, self-check-in kiosks were deployed on a large scale in airports to minimise queues, thereby enabling safety.

OTA’s role as educator

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) played the role of an educator and enablers to make people travel. Brands started displaying domestic and international travel restrictions by showcasing the quarantine requirements, countries that are open for vaccinated travellers, list of accepted vaccines, thereby bringing visibility and confidence for people to travel.

OTAs introduced new and innovative fare products that enabled travellers to pay a slight premium to purchase modifiable and cancellable tickets due to the ongoing pandemic. These fare products are an instant hit among travellers as the adoption was high. Now, these fare products have become a default expectation among travellers.

Due to various changes in consumer behaviour, such as an increase in leisure travel, travelling to offbeat destinations, reduced advance-booking window, and inability to travel due to unforeseen situations, the number of travellers who modify their travel plan or cancel is high. OTAs invested in technology to automate processes as much as possible to address these ticket modification and cancellation situations. Some of these include proactive notification to travellers when a flight is cancelled by the airline, automatic triggers for a refund to customers, and enabling customers to self-modify/cancel their tickets. These initiatives helped them in improving customer experience and reduced their CX cost.

Irrespective of the increased fares in recent quarters, pent-up demand is real as some OTAs have reported that domestic air business has recovered to 90 per cent of pre- covid levels. The fact that a full-service carrier, Vistara, has become India’s second-largest carrier during the pandemic proves that consumers are willing to pay a premium for their travel needs. OTAs have also increased the number of ancillary product offerings or value-added services to travellers - such as travel insurance, meal, or baggage.

Customer experience is the one thing that will be a key growth driver in the travel industry.

(The writer is the Head of Strategy, Cleartrip. Views are personal.)