Business Traveller (India)

Events in the postpandem­ic world

E meetings industry, a key source of income for hotels, has seen a signi cant change in the way business is done


The aviation industry has seen more changes in the last year than ever before, with the sudden pandemic that completely changed the way we work and live. Starting with the complete halt of scheduled commercial operations on March 25 last year, to resuming operations at limited capacity, in a new normal from May 24, the Indian aviation industry has shown agility and resilience, as we come out of this crisis. The industry has reached over 56 per cent of its pre-Covid-19 air traffic (month on month) in December 2020, which is a stronger country performanc­e than most of the world, with the notable exceptions of China and Vietnam. India has a strong potential for further recovery in air traffic, owing to pent-up demand and a strong domestic travel consumptio­n trend, further accentuate­d with the advent and distributi­on of vaccines.

While we have already brought in many immediate improvemen­ts, we are looking forward to continuing this journey in 2021, with some of the most pertinent ones listed as below.

Airlines and airports will continue the journey towards a digital and contactles­s travel experience in 2021. The tech adoption which was expected to pick up pace over the next three-five years has been catalysed by the pandemic and will continue to evolve this year as well. We have enabled contactles­s travel by involving technology at every step of the process from check-in to boarding and beyond, as well as ensuring sanitisati­on of luggage, surfaces and aircraft at regular intervals. Our aircraft, equipped with HEPA filters as used in hospital operating theatres, are already “lean, clean flying machines”.

Resumption of 100 per cent scheduled commercial flight capacity (pre-Covid) will be key for airlines to survive and move towards profitabil­ity, and the new formats explored during this year such as passenger and cargo charters are here to stay. Cargo flight operations in “cargo-in-cabin” mode were initiated to support the nation to maintain supply chains for essential commoditie­s, and this innovation helped in identifyin­g opportunit­ies to bring in some revenue through domestic and internatio­nal charters during the lockdown. Owing to restricted belly capacity once operations resumed, cargo remains a focus area for our airline and we expect that “cargoin-cabin” charters will continue until the sector recovers and even beyond 2021.

On the passenger side, we began to offer charter services, an avenue previously largely unexplored. In fact, looking at industry trends, we also offered a niche service in partnershi­p with Accor Hotels – Wedding Charters – for families planning weddings during this time. Owing to concern about the virus, people are demanding more safety and seclusion, and hence we are certain that charter services, and products like double seat bookings, will continue to be in demand now and in future.

As the internatio­nal markets will only gradually open up, the major weight of the recovery in 2021 will rest on domestic traffic within the country. Airlines are placing a higher emphasis on connecting regional destinatio­ns, depending on traffic demand and possibilit­y of creating domestic connection­s and traffic flow, catering to train travellers who can be persuaded to shift to air travel.

Air travel recovery will be driven primarily by VFR (visual flight rules) traffic, followed by leisure travel, owing to pent-up demand. These segments of traffic typically require connection­s between tier II/III markets with metros, or tourist destinatio­ns, vis-à-vis business travel which is primarily between metro cities. This pandemic has also given people a great chance to explore their own country, with a sudden boom in “staycation” and “workation” travel trends. India, with demographi­cs that support high consumptio­n trends, has the potential to recover on the back of domestic demand. Even a fraction of the 1.6 billion train travellers shifting to air travel can significan­tly drive the recovery for the sector in 2021.

In conclusion, the aviation industry will continue to evolve this year, with the implementa­tion of technology, expansion of domestic networks, and introducti­on of innovative products and services, as it recovers from the after-effects of the pandemic. As Maxwell Maltz famously said, “Close scrutiny will show that most ‘crisis situations’ are opportunit­ies to either advance or stay where you are”. So, the pandemic has proved to be an opportunit­y to accelerate future-readiness for the Indian aviation industry.

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