NEW DELHI: Indian aviation is no more a rich man’s prerogative and growth will continue on high trajectory in the New Year, Union Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said as the sector saw the much-needed reforms taking off in 2016 with new policy and ambitious regional connectivity plans.
2016 bloomed as a “very meaningful year” with over 20 per cent domestic air passenger growth while scrapping of the once famous ‘5/20’ overseas flying norms and relaxing of FDI rules added to the sector’s mojo.
Turning operationally profitable in the last fiscal provided the much-needed impetus to Air India amid stiff competition among domestic carriers in 2016 even as they reaped benefits of lower oil prices – a scenario unlikely to remain the same next year with changing geopolitical vibes.
Against this benign backdrop, passengers have a lot to cheer with airlines –
from budget to full-service ones – coming up with discounted ticket prices as they look to fill more seats even as many ancillary services come at a price.
Also, biometric access for passengers has been tested at Hyderabad International Airport while tag-free hand baggage system is being tried at various airports.
As Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju remarked about the aviation sector, “It is a win-win situation.”
All said and done, the sector’s trajectory had its share of air pockets with the abrupt sacking of Airports Authority of India (AAI) Chairman R K Srivastava as well as confusing signals over possible capping of air fares, an issue that has lost steam.
As the year wound down, this week’s incident of 15 fliers getting injured after a Jet Airways flight veering off the runway at Goa airport and two planes coming close to collision at the Delhi aerodrome stoked concerns over safety.
Buoyed by high passenger growth numbers and headway in bridging the skill gap, Raju described 2016 as a “rather significant and a very meaningful year” for the aviation sector.
Asserting that flying is “no more a rich man’s prerogative”, Raju, known for keeping a low profile and speaking his heart, said more people are flying and that India is the world’s largest growing aviation market.
“Things are much better than what they were. Of course, the scope for improvement is a continuous process. Wherever you are, there is always scope for improvement,” he told PTI in an interview.
“This growth is not going to be for eternity… Once you reach your levels, there will be a flattening out of growth, but India has scope for growth and we will continue to grow.
There is no reason why we should not grow,” he noted.–PTI