Demand for travel to smaller cities drives passenger growth at Bengaluru airport

Before COVID-19, the share of passengers traveling to metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai accounted for 75% of total passengers, which has now shrunk to 42%.

Updated - November 11, 2023 10:24 pm IST

Published - November 11, 2023 08:28 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Satyaki Raghunath, Chief Operating Officer, Bengaluru Airport

Satyaki Raghunath, Chief Operating Officer, Bengaluru Airport | Photo Credit: By Special Arrangement

The country’s third-largest airport in terms of passenger traffic, the Bengaluru International Airport, has seen a rapid proliferation of travel to domestic destinations since COVID-19, spurred by a demand for travel to smaller cities.

Before COVID-19, the share of passengers traveling to metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai accounted for 75% of total passengers, which has now shrunk to 42% as the share of non-metro travellers grew from 25% to 58%, explains the airport’s Chief Operating Officer, Satyaki Raghunath in an interview to The Hindu. The airport recorded 28.12 million domestic passengers out of a total 31.91 passengers in the financial year 2022-2023.

The demand from these travellers during COVID-19, when train travel was no longer a preferred choice for many due to health safety protocols, also often led to airlines opening new routes and later providing more frequencies on them.

“So, we have gone from 54 domestic destinations to 74. We are now connected to Jamnagar(Gujarat), Jaisalmer (Rajasthan), Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh), Agartala (Tripura), Jharsuguda (Odisha). Five years back you couldn’t have imagined that there would be a direct flight to these cities from Bengaluru,” says Mr. Raghunath.

These far-flung towns account for 45% of the total non-metro traffic from Bengaluru, while Jaipur, Lucknow, Pune and Goa constitute 30% of the total non-metro traffic. The remaining 25% of the traffic is to cities such as Trichy, Salem and Vizag which are within the 75-minute flying distance.

The number of domestic passengers at the airport is now at 105% of the pre-COVID level. The number of international passengers last fiscal (3.78 million) though lagged behind the pre-COVID level by around 10% as foreign carriers are yet to restore capacity to the levels seen in 2019-2020 due to supply-chain constraints as well as because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict which has closed a part of the European sky. However, by the end of this fiscal the airport is expected to exceed the pre-Covid passenger number of 33 million and record between 36 million to 37 million total passengers, the top executive says.

The growing passenger numbers at the airport, along with a large number of corporate travellers, also make the airport attractive to long-haul international carriers such as German carrier Lufthansa which launched a new flight to Munich earlier this month with its Airbus A350-900 aircraft, which also has a first-class cabin.

“Bengaluru has an advantage in service, technology and biotech sectors driving air traffic from here, which means these travellers have the propensity to spend more money. This gives airlines premium passengers allowing them to put more business and first-class capacity and enjoy better yields [average airfare per passenger per mile]. Among Indian airports, Bengaluru has among the highest yields for routes to Europe, and the U.S.,” says Mr. Raghunath.

Over the past three-and-half years, the airport has added a large number of long-haul routes such as Air India flights to San Francisco, Japan Airlines flights to Narita, Qantas connecting Sydney, Lufthansa connecting Munich, and Virgin Atlantic expected to launch flights to London Heathrow in March 2024.

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