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Set To Soar Again

Despite some headwinds this year, the civil aviation sector is growing thereby raising hopes of better times to come in 2020.

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If the latest data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation or DGCA is to be believed, the number of passengers carried by domestic airlines during January-November 2019 showed growth over the same period in 2018. This happened despite the fact that the country’s second largest private airline Jet Airways was grounded in April, reducing overall capacity.

Although the 2019 numbers seem a bit puzzling, by themselves they are good news for the Indian aviation sector. In the 11- month period, domestic air travelers numbered 131.15 million as against 126.28 million during the same period in 2018, growing at 3.86 per cent.

Some may argue that the growth rates are much lower today than those registered in the past few years. They are not wrong. But given the turmoil in the sector, calendar year 2019 is certainly not the worst year for civil aviation in India.

In layman terms, domestically, an average of 1.08 crore Indians were flying per month in 2019 compared to 1 crore air passengers per month in 2018. Without doubt, India continues to be the third-largest air travel market in terms of domestic passenger traffic. Things are only expected to look up from here given the quantum of investment committed by the central government and the rapid modernisation of the aviation infrastructure around the country.

In terms of specifics, the government spent Rs 304.49 crore for upgradation of existing airports (Apr-Nov 2019) and is building 21 greenfield airports at an estimated cost of Rs 45,000 crore, the ministry updated the Parliament two weeks ago.

Movers A Shakers

In 2019, IndiGo continued to be India’s largest passenger airline with an average market share of 47.1 per cent. For the 11-month period, IndiGo carried a total of 61.7 million domestic passengers. It was followed by SpiceJet which had an average market share of 14.8 per cent, and carried 19.4 million passengers. National carrier Air India stood third with an average market share of 12.8 per cent, having carried a total of 16.8 million passengers.

On the policy side, 2019 emerged as a key year witnessing an all-round push on aviation infrastructure creation and the resolve to divest in Air India. Around 3.5 million passengers were flown under RCS - UDAN scheme till end of November, data obtained from the civil aviation ministry shows. As a result, a large number of smaller airports got connected with big city airports in 2019. “The travelling time has reduced drastically and the public at large benefitted from tourism, medical emergencies and trips to religious shrines, etc.,” said a senior ministry official.

More Pilots, More Crew

The growth in the civil aviation sec-tor can also be gauged from the rapid increase in the number of Commercial Pilot Licenses (CPL) and Airline Transport Pilot Licenses (ATPL) that are issued by the government. In the last three years, a total of 1,862 CPL and 1,758 ATPL have been issued, the data from the ministry shows. Then a total of 12,172 cabin crew were employed in the last three years, with over 5,000 recruited by various airlines in 2019 alone. IndiGo alone was the largest employer of cabin crew among all airlines. It employed 4,997 female crew members in the last three years followed by SpiceJet that employed 2,348 crew members.

A total of 5,218 pilots were employed through recruitment exams held by various airlines in the past three years, with over half (2,301 pilots) getting employment in 2019 alone, the data shows. Overall, around 67,000 employees are working between all scheduled airlines operating in the country, Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Civil Aviation said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha in December.

Achievements & Outlook

While 335 routes were awarded during the year covering 33 airports (20 unserved, 3 underserved, 10 water aerodromes), 134 routes commenced operations from January 2019 till December 10, 2019. In India, 10 airports were operationalized in 2019 out of which four are underserved — Lilabari, Belgaum, Pantnagar and Durgapur — and six are unserved — Kullu, Kalaburgi, Kannar, Dimapur, Hindon and Pithoragarh.

Indian carriers plan to increase their fleet size to 1,100 aircraft by 2027 while the freight traffic is expected to cross 11.4 MT by 2032. Government agencies projects requirement of around 250 brown-field and greenfield airports by 2020, the work on several projects are under various stages. According to some industry reports, India is the fastest-growing aviation market and is expected to cater to 520 million passengers by 2037. India has been projected to be the second fastest-growing country in the world for passenger traffic by the Airports Council International (ACI) in its traffic forecasts between 2017-40. And amidst the rosy picture in the future, we should remember that the aviation sector in India currently supports 8 million jobs. Next year, Air India is expected to find a new owner, work for which is on at full swing.


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