Thursday, January 28, 2021

Domestic air travel in India to return to pre-Covid level later this year; int'l by late 2023: Boeing

New Delhi: American aerospace major Boeing on Thursday said India and other emerging markets, especially in SE Asia, will drive economic growth globally in the long term and that domestic air travel in India has seen a much speedier recovery during the pandemic world than most other countries. It estimates domestic air travel here to return to pre-Covid (2019) levels later this year while international travel could do so by late 2023, depending on global travel restrictions based on the pandemic situation.

“The overall (air travel) demand will double in India by 2030. While robust economic growth, a rapidly growing middle class population and investment in infra will contribute to India’s airline growth, there are some headwinds too. These include financial health of airlines, a factor globally and here too, fuel price and currency (exchange rate),” Boeing India president Salil Gupte said.

India’s domestic air travel in passenger terms is currently back to 60% of pre-Covid levels. This has been fuelled mainly by pent up demand for visiting friends and relatives. Business travel here is expected to pick up faster than in other parts of the world, the US major feels.

“Passengers are returning to fly again. India has seen its air cargo market on narrow body aircraft explode during the pandemic with the carriage of vaccines and PPEs. Additionally, growth of e-commerce here is also contributing to the growth in air cargo market and this trend will continue,” Gupta said.

Boeing is in talks with the Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to get approval for the B737 Max to fly again. It has set up a simulator for training Max pilots at a facility in Noida near Delhi after that nod comes. The US and European regulators have approved the return to service of the Max. In India, financially frail SpiceJet is currently the only airline that has Max in its fleet and on order.

“We are working with each regulator and each customer airline globally (for Max return to service) according to their requirement and their timelines. We are in touch with the DGCA to ensure they have all the information required for this to happen,” he said, while declining to comment if the required corrective work and modifications — hardware and software upgrades — on the 13 B737 Max of SpiceJet in India has begun.

Asked if a foreign airline from a country where Max has been allowed to fly again can operate this aircraft for flights to India, Gupte said: “Airlines that plan to do so will have to discuss with the DGCA. That decision will be taken by the DGCA nad has been discussed with them.” India, senior aviation officials say, is in “no hurry and will take a decision of Max return service after considering all aspects in totality.”

28/01/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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