Opinion | Aviation on thin air1 min read . Updated: 20 Jan 2020, 10:30 PM IST
Doubts over aircraft safety have also arisen, of late, dampening demand further to some extent
India’s domestic air passenger traffic growth slumped to 3.7% in 2019, with airlines flying just over 144 million passengers. This is a nosedive from 2018’s over 18% growth, data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation showed, and was not entirely unexpected, given the economic slowdown and the sector’s woes.
After full-service carrier Jet Airways went belly up last year, Kingfisher having folded much earlier, aviation watchers had expected no-frill players like SpiceJet and IndiGo to rule the skies. The latter did expand capacity. But, the presence of Air India, bankrolled by the government, continued to distort the market, even as belt-tightening among corporate and other travellers kept demand weak and fares low.
Whether a recovery can be expected in 2020 is unclear at this juncture. Jet fuel remains overtaxed and its price volatile, while a depreciating rupee could push up operating costs. Doubts over aircraft safety have also arisen, of late, dampening demand further to some extent. In all, it may take more than an economic uptick for Indian aviation to recover its past angle of incline. The swift privatization of Air India will help.