India’s outbound passenger number doubles between January and March 2023

According to data from the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the number of international passengers travelling through India almost doubled during the first three months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Travel agents attribute this trend to a rise in international travel demand, which has been bolstered by the G-20 meetings taking place in India. According to the data, the number of international passengers increased this year over last year in January by 121.9%, February by 109.2%, and March by 61%. The first three months of any calendar year are typically not the busiest for air travel, but in 2022, these three months were also when travel was at a minimum because of the Omicron variant outbreak, which first spread in South Africa at the end of 2021 before sparking the final Covid-19 wave that affected the entire world. However, the increase in foreign travellers at Indian airports continued in April, increasing by 43% compared to the same month previous year. Data also reveals that the increase in passengers reached comparable levels in November and December, which are typically the busiest months for air travel.

The growth rates in recent months were larger than those seen in the months prior to Covid, but those months had a higher starting point. According to Ajay Prakash, head of the Travel Agents Federation of India, “Indians have begun travelling abroad for leisure, and these statistics only demonstrate the rising demand for air travel.” However, according to analysts, pressure is still present on foreign business travel. “There are several causes for the enormous increase in foreign travel, but this year the G20 is primarily to blame, therefore we are waiting to see how people feel after September. Although Covid has encouraged virtual meetings, corporate travel has experienced the slowest growth”, according to Jyoti Mayal, president of the Travel Agents Association of India.

Although this could also be skewed by several factors, such as the war in Ukraine and high inflation in many parts of the world, the number of international passengers carried at the AAI airports in January 2023 (5.7 million) was still lower than the numbers (6.49 million) in January 2020, suggesting the surge was still insufficient to return travel to pre-pandemic levels. The majority of the increase in overseas travel, she continued, was being driven by students and VFRs. “Students and their parents are once again travelling for graduation ceremonies,” she continued. Airlines in India continue to post record passenger numbers despite Go First, which carried around 7% of all domestic passengers, ceasing aircraft operations on May 3. India has been an outlier in terms of the return of air travellers following the pandemic.


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