Wednesday, January 06, 2021

How Indian aviation clawed its way back inch by inch after being grounded

As the month, year and decade drew to a close, India recorded a streak of over 2 lakh domestic passengers per day for 42 days at a stretch. December recorded 71.43 lakh passengers, just 55 percent of what was seen last December. Flights operated in the domestic sector stood at 67 percent of last December.

The numbers may look lower, but a recovery does look firmly in sight since the country has gone back only seven years by passenger numbers, while aviation has seen a setback of nearly two decades globally.

Without two full months of operations, India clocked 628.28 lakh passengers in 2020. The numbers are close to those clocked in 2013 when domestic air traffic stood at 614.26 lakh passengers.

The year 2013 was the first full year of operations after the demise of Kingfisher Airlines and ironically 2020 happens to be the first full year after the suspension of a major airline in 2019. Yet, traffic was resilient even amid the pandemic and seems to be a sign of a robust domestic market built over the last five years.

Traffic more than doubled between 2013 and 2019, even though the fleet grew only 65 percent. Regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) releases fleet data by financial year while passenger data is released by calendar year, making a correct correlation difficult. However, at the end of March 2014, the combined fleet in India stood at 395 commercial aircraft. Air India group operated 125 of these — 96 through Air India, 21 with Air India Express and 8 with Air India regional.

Among private airlines, Jet Airways had 101 aircraft, 12 of which were with Jetlite. IndiGo had 77, while Spicejet, Go Air and Air Costa had 58, 18 and 4, respectively.

06/01/21 Ameya Joshi/

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