Mumbai Airport rebounding as India's travel restrictions eased

The airport's CEO expects BOM's domestic traffic to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021 or early 2022.

Traffic is continuing to rebound at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (BOM), relieving some of the severe financial pressure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.

Flight numbers at BOM are gradually increasing as domestic travel restrictions and capacity limits are eased, airport CEO Rajeev Jain said during a CAPA Live event on Jan.13.

The airport expects its domestic traffic to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021 or early 2022, he added.

Domestic leisure traffic has been boosted by the reopening of Indian tourist destinations such as Goa (GOI), Jain said. There has even been some short-haul international traffic to the popular leisure market of the Maldives (MLE).

This is a big improvement from the early stages of the pandemic, when all flights at BOM were grounded aside from some medical and cargo services. Limited passenger services began in May. The lack of traffic caused BOM to shutter some of its facilities, including one of its two terminals.

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While the airport essentially had no revenue coming in, it will still be able to meet its high proportion of fixed costs, Jain said. It had to keep one terminal open to remain operational, and the closed terminal still required services including maintenance and security.

BOM was able to freeze loan and interest payments, and other stakeholders also agreed to deferrals. Some wages and salary payments had to be deferred, but these are now up to date, Jain said. He believes one of the lessons from the pandemic is that airports should be more prepared with sufficient cash reserves to adjust to crises.

As traffic returned, BOM has had to introduce a range of additional services, Jain said. While COVID-19 testing facilities were initially scarce, the airport now has three testing labs offering a variety of options, including express tests. 

Photo credit: Mumbai International Airport

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