Festival season kicks off domestic travel

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Festival season has here, and domestic travel is picking up steam. In October, rail reservations reached pre-COVID-19 levels, while air travel demand has recovered from the impact of the pandemic’s second wave.

According to travellers, long lines, a packed terminal building, equipment going down, delayed flights and strained tempers characterised the scenes at Mumbai airport last week. On Sunday, travellers shared photos of the Delhi airport’s serpentine lines at the entrance to the terminal building on social media.
According to Indian Railways data, net passenger reservations (reserved) were 225.95 lakh in the first eight days of October this year, up over 74% from 130 lakh in the same period last year. The Indian Railways’ net revenues increased by 43 per cent to 1,066.85 crores in the first eight days of October 2019, compared to 745.66 crores in the same period last year.

The Indian Railways were running 1,701 mail/express trains per day on average as of October 8, including holiday specials, only slightly under the pre-COVID-19 average of 1,768 trains.

In the first week of October, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), the only organisation authorised to sell online railway ticket booking services, saw average daily bookings surpass 13 lakh, compared to a pre-COVID-19 average of 9 lakh reservations per day. According to an IRCTC official, as the Christmas season approaches, the average daily amount will likely rise to 14 lakh bookings.

“We just reintroduced tour packages that were previously available before COVID-19. Who initially demanded packages to Leh, Ladakh, Kashmir, Goa, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The official stated, “We are now experiencing a little change from leisure tourist to pilgrimage tourism.”

According to the official, when the firm announced the resumption of the ‘Ramayana Yatra Train Tours,’ who booked the full train within five days. Because of the high demand, three more trains have been added to this excursion.

Up in the clouds

This upward trend corresponds with another significant milestone in air travel. On Saturday, October 9, domestic air travel in India surpassed the 3-lakh mark, a record not witnessed since the second wave of COVID-19 reduced travel excitement.

“The traffic prediction has never been this optimistic following India’s resumption of civil aviation in May 2020.” The number of passengers on October 9 was 3,04,020, which is 71.5 per cent more than pre-COVID-19 [numbers]. According to Ameya Joshi, the aviation analysis site Network Thoughts publisher, “the last time the 3,000,000 thresholds was surpassed was on February 28, 2021.”

Following the tumultuous scenes in Mumbai on Friday, both Delhi and Mumbai announced plans to restore passenger terminal buildings shuttered due to a traffic slump. Mumbai has opted to reopen Terminal 2 on October 13 rather than October 20, while Delhi has announced that flights from Terminal 1 would restart on November 1. Delhi has chosen to reopen Terminal 1 and its other two passenger terminal facilities, Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, for the first time since May 2020.

“A mix of visiting friends and family as well as leisure travel accounts for the recent increase in travel bookings. The increase in travel confidence has also resulted in a change in the pattern of advanced purchasing behaviour. According to Aloke Bajpai, co-founder and group CEO of ixigo, “the percentage of reservations for travel beyond 30 days rose in September, showing pre-planned advance buy behaviour, which had become last-minute purchasing behaviour during the epidemic.”

The government has agreed to lift the minimum and maximum rates that an airline may provide if a passenger books a ticket more than 15 days in advance.

As a result, if you book far in advance, tickets drop, as airlines want to increase demand and load their planes to boost income from bookings. Consider this: a Delhi-Bengaluru trip that costs $7,422 today will cost $3,170 next month; a Mumbai-Ahmedabad flight that costs $4,262 today will cost $1,760 next month, and a Delhi-Goa ticket that costs $15,045 today will cost $8,058 next month.

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