Singapore — India's jet fuel demand grew 9.9% to 256,000 mt in August, marking the fourth consecutive month-on-month gain, as local carriers ramped up services for domestic and repatriation flights, according to data released Sept. 9 by the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell.
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Air India said on Sept. 8 that the carrier will begin to operate flights between Delhi and Birmingham from Sept. 18 till Oct. 24. This was made possible with the government's Vande Bharat Mission Phase and the 'travel bubble' arrangement between India and the UK. In addition, Air India is also eyeing to operate direct flights between Kolkata and London twice a week from Sept. 16 to Oct. 24.
Meanwhile, repatriation efforts, otherwise dubbed as the Vande Bharat Mission, have rapidly scaled up since commencing in May. The first phase saw just 64 flights, operated by Air India, carrying home 13,000 passengers. Since then, the number of passengers flown by various Indian carriers has grown to over 4,000 on a daily basis, according to media reports.
"India's civil aviation sector has risen to the occasion in these testing times," Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri said Sept. 9, adding that more than 8 million people have flown on domestic flights since May 25 while the VBM mission has facilitated repatriation and outbound travel of more than 1.57 million people since May 6.
Looking ahead, Puri expects the country's aviation sector recovery to stay on track.
"Prior to COVID-19 pandemic, around 3 million passengers per day traveled domestically in India. By the time we reach Diwali, we would be 50%-55% of our pre-COVID figures. By the end of the year, we will revive civil aviation to pre-COVID levels," the minister said.
That said however, industry sources cautioned that the country's jet fuel demand is still "fragile" as the country continues to battle the rampant rise in COVID-19 infections. On Sept. 7, India surpassed Brazil and became the second worst-affected nation by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Evidencing this, consumption of the aviation fuel was still much lower compared to the same period in 2019, with demand plunging 64.6% on a year-on-year basis amid curtailed international flights, PPAC data showed.
Earlier on July 31, the country's aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation said that its existing ban on international flights would be extended to Aug. 31 due to COVID-19. The suspension of international flights was initially due to end July 31. This meant that international flights would have remained suspended for six months since March 23.
According to AirNav Radar Box, India's domestic flights are currently down by 59% of pre-COVID-19 levels, while international travel is still down by 69%.
"India's viral increase has extended beyond the major cities to rural areas. The day on day infection rate remains very near record highs ... Mobility remains among the most impaired with regard to the Apple Mobility data, while aviation traffic also remains heavily impaired," S&P Global Platts Analytics said in an earlier report.