Aviation in 2009: of chopper mishaps, loss and strikes

Aviation in 2009: of chopper mishaps, loss and strikes

New Delhi: After its spiral dive last year, the Indian aviation industry noticed slight signs of improvement at the fag end of 2009 that also saw a major helicopter crash in which Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S R Reddy perished and several near-miss incidents.

The combined losses of all airlines in 2008-09 was over a massive Rs8,000 crore.

Though no accidents involving scheduled carriers occurred, the year saw the Y S R tragedy. There were also several near-miss incidents, including one involving the IAF choppers carrying president Pratibha Patil and an Air India plane.

The operations of Jet Airways and Air India remained paralysed for several days by separate strikes called by their pilots in September to press for their demands.

The major dip in passenger traffic caused by the economic recession, low business traffic and high ticket prices through the year, started looking up in the last two- three months of 2009, but the yields continued to remain low.

Barring only two carriers -- IndiGo and Paramount -- all scheduled airlines continued to post huge losses. Led by Air India which was estimated to suffer a loss of about 5,000 crore in 2008-09, Kingfisher Airlines posted a loss of ,602 crore, Jet Airways-JetLite combine ,032 crore, SpiceJet 52.50 crore and GoAir 2.5 crore.

Air India’s financial troubles saw the government coming to its aid and allocating Rs800 crore as the first tranche of equity infusion in the national carrier. It also approved a Jet Airways proposal to raise $400 million from foreign institutional investors.

Modernisation work at metro and non-metro airports continued, but imposition of development charges and hiking of airport charges by private airport developers at some major airports coming under criticism.

While a green signal was granted for construction of new greenfield airports at Navi Mumbai and Mopa in Goa, apart from an aerotropolis near Durgapur in West Bengal, work on these projects are likely to start in the next few months.

The pace of work on upgrading and modernisation of 35 non-metro airports slowed down due to a decline in air traffic, with only nine expected to be completed by March. Work on another five airports is likely to be completed by 2010-end and the remaining 26 by 2012.

The hiking of airport charges and imposition of development fees at major airports like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, came in from criticism from various quarters, including the IATA which put Indian airports on a ‘wall of shame´.

The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA), set up this year, was plagued by delays in selection of its top officers and is yet to start full-fledged monitoring and regulation of these charges and other tariffs.

The government had last year approved the FDI limits in civil aviation sector of upto 49% on automatic route and upto 100% for NRIs, besides up to 74% for non-scheduled operators and 100% for cargo, among other things.