The enforcement of the nationwide lockdown caused many people to be stranded away from their hometowns, as bans were imposed on every mode of travel. Now that the government has provided some relaxations and allowed domestic air travel to resume in certain regions, people are flying more than ever before, Paytm says. Its online travel booking platform registered over 8.5 million flight searches in a matter of days.

Paytm notes that the rise in demand is pretty evident, as it is witnessing “close to 200% of the average daily search volume witnessed before the lockdown began in March,” the company said in a press release. The platform also reports that most of these searches are from people travelling to tier 2 cities from metropolitans, thus establishing a clear trend.

During the last three days, the company witnessed the peak point in flight search, with about 177K requests processed in an hour.

The lockdown, and the subsequent easing of the lockdown, has changed the aviation industry in India and globally, at least for the time being. Paytm notes that otherwise busy routes, like Delhi-Mumbai and Bangalore-DelhI, have been replaced by heavy traffic on routes like Delhi-Patna, Mumbai-Varanasi, Bengaluru-Guwahati. “Due to the last three consecutive lockdowns, several travellers had to stay back in metro cities mainly New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru which they might have visited for some work. They are now taking this opportunity to book a flight back to their home towns in non-metro cities including Patna, Jaipur, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Guwahati, among other,” the release said.

The change in trend is elaborated by Abhishek Rajan, Senior Vice President – Paytm Travel, who said “There is a pent up demand for non-metro destinations from metro cities. Eager flyers are booking tickets to go back home. This has led to a jump in searches and ticket bookings on our platform. While there is a surge in demand, we think it will taper down with time.”

The company is also taking necessary steps to make sure that people who suffered due to being stranded in a place away from home, can return back. When the lockdown was announced in March, many people had already booked flights, which were then cancelled. To recuperate the loss to its customers, Paytm issued credit shell balance to people, which can be redeemed for booking a flight ticket on the same airline for any future journey date in the next 12 months. The amount of the credit shell balance was equal to the amount of the flight ticket that they had booked.