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The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on airport operations and the aviation industry

TeamAckoMay 5, 2023

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the aviation industry has had to navigate through enormous challenges. Airports in India have experienced major losses in passengers and revenues. Flight cancellations, travel advisory for certain countries, closure of airspace for international flights, the layoff of airline personnel, production, and freight capacity reduction, among other factors, have impacted Indian airport operations and the aviation industry in India. In this article, we look at the various impacts of the pandemic on different facets of the aviation industry in the country.




1. Loss of Passengers

The primary consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic on airport operations in India has been a significant reduction in the number of passengers. The Ministry of Civil Aviation reported on the 24th of June that the number of passengers had dropped by 74% compared to the same period in 2019. In the first quarter of 2020, the rate of decline was 97% compared to the last quarter of 2019. This resulted in lower revenues for the airports and the aviation industry as a whole.

2. Increase in Cost of Operating

Airports in India have had to bear additional costs for providing protection to the passengers and their staff. Social distancing is a primary concern, and the number of passengers allowed per check-in counter has had to be reduced. This has led to not only an increase in operating costs but also long queues and time spent per passenger, resulting in reduced passenger throughput.

3. Reduction in Flight Frequency

The decrease in passenger footfall has had a serious impact on the flight frequencies. Airlines reduced the frequency of flights on certain international and domestic routes and they have been replaced with larger aircraft to bolster the revenues and the occupancy rates. For example, Air India is now operating its wide-body Airbus A321 aircraft on some domestic routes.

4. Effect on Aircraft Maintenance

With fewer flights, the airports in India are faced with a challenge as far as aircraft maintenance is concerned. This has caused a significant disruption in the supply chain and necessitated the process of storing and maintaining aircraft in the most efficient manner. Airlines have had to respond by reducing the size of their fleet and opting for wet leasing of the aircraft, if needed.

5. Disruption in Cargo Operations

International cargo operations, including exports and imports of perishable items, have been plagued by the pandemic-related restrictions. As exports move to the cloud, more aircraft are needed to transport the items, resulting in additional costs. The aviation industry has had to quickly adapt to the changes by exploring ground transportation options, introducing new routes, and modernising stockpiling systems, among others.

6.Consolidation of Airports

To tackle the decline in passenger and revenues, several smaller airports in India have been consolidated with larger airports as a cost-saving measure. This allows airlines to transport passengers to their destination through connecting flights and helps increase the occupancy rate. Furthermore, the average capacity utilisation of the aircraft also increases.

7. Impacts on the Tourism Industry

The tourism industry in India has been adversely affected by the pandemic. Since the international flights have been restricted, popular destinations like Goa have seen a decline in tourists, resulting in a fall in hotel, restaurant and other related businesses. The indigenous tourism industry, which depends heavily on air travel, has been severely impacted.

8. Airfare Price Cuts and Discounts

The dip in the prices of crude oil and the overcapacity in the market have forced airlines to reduce airfare prices and introduce discounts and offers. For example, the airline Vistara is offering discounts of up to 30% for bookings made between July and September 2020. This strategy of Airline has been adopted by many other airlines as well and has helped them increase their load factor and increase occupancy rate.

9. Innovative Technology Solutions

The pandemic has necessitated airports to explore new ways to operate and maintain social distancing. Many airports have adopted contactless solutions, such as temperature scanning, facial recognition, and automated bag-drop machines, to reduce human contact. This has not only helped airports reduce costs but also enhanced the passenger experience.

10. Impact on the Airline Personnel

The aviation industry in India had been dealing with layoffs even before the pandemic started. The pandemic has only made matters worse. Airline personnel have not only been laid off due to the decline in revenues but they have also been informed that they need to bear a salary cut or work fewer hours. This has caused a wave of frustration among the employees, who are now seeking alternative ways to cope with the crisis.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a drastic impact on airport operations and the aviation industry in India. With flight cancellations, fare cuts, increases in the cost of operating, and reductions in aircraft maintenance, the industry is facing unprecedented challenges. Airlines have responded to the crisis by innovating new technology solutions, consolidating airports, and reducing the number of flight frequencies. However, the aviation industry is expected to pick up in the coming months, as the government continues to relax travel restrictions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below, you will find responses to frequently asked questions regarding the impact of the pandemic on airport and aviation operations.


How have the airports in India been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

The pandemic has had a severe impact on airport operations in India. The primary losses have been in the number of passengers, resulting in lower revenues for the airports. Furthermore, airports have had to bear additional costs for enhanced safety measures and there has been a reduction in flight frequency.

How has the tourism industry been affected by the pandemic?

The restriction on international flights has had a major impact on the tourism industry in India. Popular destinations like Goa have seen a significant drop in their tourist numbers. Furthermore, the indigenous tourism industry, which relies heavily on air travel, has been severely impacted by the pandemic.

How are airlines responding to the crisis?

Airlines have responded to the crisis by introducing various initiatives, such as cost-cutting measures, fare reductions, innovative technology solutions, and consolidations. As the demand for air travel increases, airlines are expected to resume their normal operations.


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