Delhi airport hit a new milestone on October 3, when it handled over 125,000 passengers (domestic and international) arriving or taking off. This number is the highest after the country was pummelled by the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in April.
The country’s largest airport handled 107,300 domestic passengers on that day – again a record after the second wave.
But read the numbers with caution.
Despite an increase in flights and passenger movement, especially in domestic travel, there is a gap. For instance, the average daily domestic passengers in February 2020 (which is taken as the benchmark by the airport for pre-Covid daily passengers) was 154,155. The peak on October 3 was only 70 per cent of that magic number.
If domestic and international passengers are taken into consideration, compared to the pandemic-levels, the gap gets bigger. That is because in February 2020, the average number of passengers handled by Delhi airport was 207,659 (international 52,540 daily).
Of the total passengers – both domestic and international – the current peak is just 60 per cent of flight travellers handled pre-pandemic.
The low number of passengers being handled for international flights is understandable, given countries are cautious about opening the skies. Even on a peak day like October 3, the number of passengers was only a third of the average of pre-Covid levels at 52,000 daily.
The reason is straightforward.
Despite the easing of capacity constraints by the government, air traffic movement, both domestic and international, averages at 860 daily. That is still 64 per cent of pre-Covid levels (at 1,338).
If one takes only domestic air traffic movement (landings or take-offs of aircraft engaged in the transport of passengers, freight or mail) – at 860 per day – it is still 73 per cent of pre-Covid numbers. Air traffic movement is currently a third of 322 in February 2020.
The good news is that the airport – after the crippling impact of the second wave hit Delhi the hardest – is inching close to the peak it saw since airports opened up from May 25 last year after lockdown restrictions were eased.
The number of domestic passengers handled on October 3 this year is within a whisker of February numbers, when the number of domestic passengers handled peaked at 108,000. On the same day, it also handled the maximum number of passengers (international and domestic) at 130,000.