New Delhi: India’s civil aviation sector, which was heavily battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, added over 20 aircraft during the year 2020.
The inductions are considered to be a sign of revival as well as airlines reposing their faith in the long-term growth potential of the industry.
Cumulatively, the country’s domestic airlines increased their fleet by 21 aircraft last year, taking the total count to well above the 700-mark.
In a conversation with IANS, Arun Kumar, Director General of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), said: “Despite the pandemic, domestic airlines added new aircraft to their fleets. “The country’s total commercial aircraft fleet reached 716 by the end of the last year.”
As per official figures, India had 695 aircraft at the beginning of 2020. Last year, 73 aircraft were added while 52 were sent back to the lessors by the airlines.
Recently, the Centre had notified the aircraft leasing business in India. The move is expected to give an imputes to the airlines for adding further capacity at cheaper cost.
In contrast to the capacity augmentation, the domestic airlines at present can only deploy up to 80 per cent of the per-Covid flight capacity. This restriction is set to be revoked once consistent per-Covid air passenger traffic level is achieved.
On the domestic traffic front, Kumar said: “We are seeing growth patterns in air travel but these trends are not consistent. It seems some more time is required for a consistent growth trend. Nevertheless, we see a sequential growth taking place. Lower base from March 2020 onwards will help in pushing up the growth trajectory.”
Lately, passenger traffic had contracted in view of the Covid scare regarding air travel, economic slowdown and capacity constraint.
Nonetheless, stable airfares, passengers’ rising confidence levels in the bio-safety measures for air travel along accelerated revival of economic activity have triggered the growth momentum of the sector.
In January, on a year-on-year basis, the air passenger traffic had dropped by 39.50 per cent to 77.34 lakh from 127.83 lakh reported for the corresponding period of the previous year.
On a sequential basis, domestic passenger traffic rose 5.55 per cent in January to 77.34 lakh passengers from 73.27 lakh reported for December 2020.
In a recent traffic report, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that India’s year-on-year domestic air passenger growth rate plunged by 37.6 per cent in January 2021.
As per the data, India’s domestic passenger traffic decline was larger than that of China at (-) 33.9 per cent and Brazil at (-) 31.4 per cent.
Besides, the country’s domestic available passenger capacity — measured in available seat kilometres (ASKs) — fell by 22.5 per cent on a YoY basis.
The passenger traffic growth is considered a key high-frequency indicator of the country’s macro-economic health. India’s domestic air passenger volume has remained subdued on a YoY basis since March 2020 due to the imposition of a nationwide lockdown.
It was on May 25, 2020 that gradual re-opening of the domestic operations was allowed.