Growing tourism, rising airlines: India’s civil aviation all set to take off, again

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Tourists enjoy Shikara ride on the Dal Lake during rain, in Srinagar on Saturday. (ANI Photo)

Billionaire investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-backed Akasa Air has got the air operator certificate from the DGCA, and it will begin flying by the month-end

Our Bureau
New Delhi/Mumbai

India’s international air passenger volumes are likely to reach 96-97 per cent of the pre-Covid levels at 329-332 million this fiscal with June traffic already at 79 per cent of the levels seen before the outbreak of the pandemic, ratings agency Icra said on Thursday.

India’s international air passenger traffic resumed from March 27 this year after a hiatus of two years.

Icra said it also expects international passenger volumes will surge ahead of the FY21 levels (pre-pandemic) by the end of March 2024.

While the recovery in domestic passenger traffic declined marginally to 91 per cent of pre-Covid levels in June at 21.1 million as compared to 98 per cent in April and May, respectively, the international air passenger traffic has seen a steady improvement in the last three months, reaching 79 per cent of the pre-Covid levels in June, the ratings agency said.

Overall, the air passenger traffic stood at 88 per cent of pre-Covid levels in June 2022, as per Icra. It expects international passenger traffic to reach 90-92 per cent of the pre-Covid levels by the end of this fiscal and cross pre-Covid levels in FY24, Lahoti said, adding that the recovery of domestic passenger traffic moderated in June 2022 in line with historic trends.

The key reason for lower domestic traffic in June compared to May is due to the end of summer vacation, reopening of schools and consequently reduced leisure travel..

Meanwhile, billionaire investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-backed Akasa Air on Thursday got the air operator certificate (AOC or licence) from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), and will begin flying by the month-end. The low-cost carrier backed by Indian aviation veterans like Vinay Dube and Aditya Ghosh will soon have two Boeing 737 MAX and then begin commercial operations.

“We are extremely thankful to the ministry of civil aviation and the DGCA for their constructive guidance, active support and the highest levels of efficiency throughout the AOC process. We now look forward to opening our flights for sale, leading to the start of commercial operations by late July. This will begin our journey towards building India’s greenest, most dependable, and most affordable airline,” Akasa founder-CEO Vinay Dube said.

The grant of AOC is the final step for an airline’s launch. The process concluded with the airline successfully conducting a number of proving flights to show its operational readiness. Akasa Air, whose airline code is QP, received its first 737 MAX on June 21, 2022.

Later this month, the airline will commence commercial operations with two aircraft, subsequently adding to its fleet, every month. By the end of the fiscal year 2022-23, the airline will have inducted 18 aircraft and thereafter 12-14 aircraft every 12 months, which will make up its order of 72 delivered over five years.

In a related development, with seasonal demand for flights between the Middle East and India soaring by the day, airlines are witnessing sold-out flights for the next few days. In order to capitalize on the trend, Air India has decided to add capacity to the route by deploying more widebody aircraft to Dubai.

Air India is putting its fleet to good use, redirecting some of its larger jets to where the demand is. Dubai has always been a cash cow for any airline connecting the destination with India and has become even more important now with travel demand bouncing back.

Under normal circumstances, Air India deploys a mixed fleet of A320 family of airplanes and Boeing 787s to Dubai, but it has recently upped the ratio of the Dreamliners to DXB, looking at the travel rush. P. P. Singh, regional Manager at Air India, told the Gulf News that to meet the demand, the airline is operating 69 weekly flights to Dubai, out of which 35 are Dreamliners.

 The 787s are operating from three destinations – Delhi, Mumbai, and Kochi as the carrier attempts to increase its market share in the highly-lucrative Gulf market by offering upgraded services. The bigger jets offer more legroom and a better business class product designed for longer routes.

Air India has 27 Boeing 787-8 airplanes in its fleet, most of which fly to Europe and some to Australia, Dubai, and a few domestic routes.

As Indians rush back home during the summer season to reunite with families and also celebrate Eid, air tickets for the sector are witnessing a steep rise. Air India flights are “fully booked” for the Eid period, adding that ticket prices to India from Dubai will come down only sometime in August. Even generally, Indians are having to shell out more these days from all Middle East destinations due to increased demand.

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