Taking Wing

Aviation sector flies into better weather

The aviation sector is experiencing a gra­dual recovery after two years of Covid-19 turbulence, with domestic traffic im­proving to normal figures, international flights resuming and Indian carriers expanding their air cargo business. Although the current global geopolitical strain may cause cost escalations due to the rise in oil prices, it is expected that domestic traffic will return to pre-Co­vid levels during 2022-23, while international traffic may witness slower growth. As per the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the number of passengers carried by domestic airlines increased by 66.73 per cent, from 34.34 million in January 2022 to 57.25 milli­on in June 2022.

The sector has witnessed key developme­nts in different areas…

Airports

With a projection of 0.4 billion travellers in India (both domestic and international) by 2027, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) plans on creating 220 airports by 2030 to harness the sector’s growth. The Government of India has accorded in-principle approval for setting up 21 greenfield airports across the country, including international and domestic airports, of which eight have been operationalised.

Progress on smart airports

  • Digi Yatra facilitates smart innovations: As of July 2022, MoCA has taken a big leap to­war­ds the modernisation of airports with a targeted capital outlay of over Rs 900 billion fr­om 2019-20 to 2024-25. The Digi Yatra pro­ject initiated by the ministry is a massive en­deavour to facilitate seamless and con­ta­ct­less processing of passengers at seven airports in two phases.
  •  Facial recognition systems and self-scanning at airports: In August 2022 the Delhi, Ben­ga­luru, Hyderabad and Varanasi airports rolled out facial re­cognition systems for passenger verification. The Delhi and Mumbai airports have also ad­op­ted new electronic gates at the im­mig­ra­tion counters that allow passen­ge­rs to self-scan their boarding passes to move into the boarding area.
  •  AI mechanism adopted for efficient surveillance: Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport has introduced an indigenously deve­loped artificial intelligence (AI)-based surveillance service called Desk of Goodness, whi­ch aims to serve passengers such as se­ni­or citizens, women with infants and people in need of a wheelchair. It also detects incidents such as falls or abnormal passenger behaviour.

Cargo facilities planned and operational

  • Growth of air cargo revenues: Airlines have witnessed a 520 per cent increase in cargo revenue in the past two years. With the government’s vision for 10 million tonnes (mt) of annual cargo throughput by 2030, the air cargo market in India is all set to tap the potential of domestic and international markets. Pradhan Air Express has been set up as a new cargo airline to promote this vision.
  • Work on cargo terminal of Ahmedabad air­port progresses: Phase I of the semi-automated cargo terminal project at Ahmedabad Airport has begun construction work. It will be capable of handling domestic cargo, inte­r­national cargo, express cargo, cold chain pharma and other perishable cargo. Work on Phase I is li­kely to be completed by June 2023.
  • Pune airport cargo complex project sets forth: Around 1.76 acres of land has been received for implementation of the Pune airport cargo complex project by the Defence Estates Offi­ce. The project involves the deve­lopment of a domestic and international air cargo complex at Pune airport in Maharash­tra at an estimated cost of Rs 3 billion, and is expected to be completed by December 31, 2022.

    Airline updates
  • Akasa Air launches new routes: Akasa Air re­ceived its third aircraft on August 16, 2022, and began its commercial operations on the Bengaluru-Mumbai route with two aircraft on August 19, 2022. The plan of the airline is to start its operations with six rou­tes across fi­ve cities, namely, Mumbai, Ah­me­dabad, Ko­chi, Bengaluru and Chennai.
  •  UDAN makes milestones: As of August 18, 2022, 954 routes have been awarded to con­­nect 156 airports under the Regional Con­nectivity Scheme – UdeDesh ka AamNa­grik (UDAN). A total of 68 airports and 425 routes (56, 142, 159, 46 and 22 under UDAN 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 4.1, respectively) ha­ve been op­e­rationalised.
  •  Acquisition of AirAsia by Tata-owned Air In­dia approved: In June 2022, Air India, which is now a Tata affiliate, received the Com­pe­tition Commission of India’s approval for acquiring AirAsia. Almost the entirety of Tata Group’s sta­ke in AirAsia India (83.67 per cent) has been approved, while the remaining 16.33 per cent is expected to be purchased by the Tata Group from its Malaysian partner, AirAsia Berhad.
  • DGCA acts on technical issues of SpiceJet air­line: DGCA has issued a show cause noti­ce to SpiceJet after eight incidents of te­ch­nical malfunction took place between June 19, 2022 and July 5, 2022. It has also in­itiated a two-month-long special audit of airlines, focused on hangars, stores, equipme­nt used by airline personnel, aircraft grounded due to lack of spare parts, etc.

The aviation sector has witnessed a significant upswing and consequently, MoCA has pla­nned for careful expansion in the coming years. There will be allocation for additional airline capacity of 15 per cent, or 100 to 110 aircraft per year, with a target of reaching 1,200 air­craft by 2027. The government has also set a goal of increasing cargo flights for perishable food items by 30 per cent with 133 new flights, as well as setting up 33 new domestic cargo terminals and 15 new flight training schools for pilots, and increasing the focus on the integration of drone technology. Further, the governme­nt plans to invest around Rs 980 billion in setting up greenfield airports and expanding brownfield airports in the coming four years, of which Rs 620 billion is planned for private sector investments with the Airports Authority of India investing the remaining Rs 360 billion.

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