Friday, October 28, 2016

Speedy reforms needed for UDAN to fly

Air India, once an unrivalled lodestar, is today a decrepit moribund organisation. For Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) services, our aircraft fly to Sri Lanka, Middle East or Singapore where, ironically, Indian engineers work on them.

All our active airports put together handle less cargo than Hong Kong airport, which fuels the growth of southern China. General aviation – comprising helicopters, business jets, and small turbo prop planes that offer regional connectivity – that exploded during UPA-I had already shrunk.

The aviation business has remained stagnant during the last seven years. Growth has been reported last year but if viewed over a period of seven years – from 2009 when Kingfisher collapsed – the total number of passenger aircrafts in the country has remained static.

The grounding of Kingfisher-Air Deccan, the SpiceJet crisis and shutting down of Paramount saw 145 aircraft exiting the country. An equal number has been imported. Though Indigo filled this vacuum and grew, the market itself did not expand.

Hard numbers tell that story. The market shrank from 57 million to 55 million three years ago. At present, the total number of domestic passenger tickets sold is a measly 75 million for a population of more than a billion. Less than 3% of Indians can afford air travel and of this, 80% comes from four metros.
28/10/16 Capt G R Gopinath/Deccan Herald