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India's biggest airline expects international travel to recover this year

India's biggest airline expects international travel to recover this year
IndiGo, India’s flagship airline, has said it expects passenger numbers on international flights to fully recover before the end of 2021, and sees room for growth after the pandemic is over.

Travel restrictions are still in place in India, with the government cautious about fully resuming scheduled international flights and relying instead on bilateral travel agreements, also known as travel bubbles. The coronavirus-related measures have hit airlines hard, and they have been struggling to stay afloat during the crisis.

According to IndiGo's CEO Ronojoy Dutta, the carrier is currently struggling, at only 28 percent of its normal international capacity. However, the situation with domestic flights is much better, as they have reached 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

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“I think we should be at 100 percent of domestic capacity by April at the latest,” Dutta said in an interview with CNBC on Monday. “International will open slower, but by the end of calendar year 2021, we should be at pre-Covid levels internationally as well.”

This is more optimistic than the aviation executive’s previous predictions. When InterGlobe Aviation, which runs IndiGo, reported its fourth straight quarterly loss last month, Dutta said the carrier expects to reach half of its normal international capacity only by mid-2022, while full recovery is not expected before the end of the next year.

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Both domestic and international divisions have “lots of opportunities” for growth, the CEO believes. The country has quite low air travel penetration, meaning there will be a “huge amount of pent-up demand” after the crisis is over. Speaking about the development of the more profitable international division, Dutta said the company will manage to boost flights to and from countries within a six- to seven-hour flight, including Russia and China.

“We are very excited about those growth prospects, and as you know, we have a big fleet expansion coming,” he said, adding that he looks forward to 2022, when the ambitious growth plans can be implemented.

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