New Delhi: India is expecting local air passenger traffic will surpass the pre-pandemic level within a year as fliers return, emboldened by a steep fall in new Covid-19 infections.
“I am very confident in the days to come, in the months to come, within the next year, we will surpass the pre-Covid level” of 415,000 daily passengers, India Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said at Wings India airshow in Hyderabad on Friday. India may need to add as many as 120 jets every year, he said, urging local carriers to expand their fleet of widebody aircraft needed for international operations.
India is gearing up for this anticipated demand boom by building airports even in the smallest of cities, training more pilots and crew as well as improving maintenance facilities, Scindia said. The government plans to approve 15 new flying training schools expanding the network of such 34 current institutes.
The travel recovery in India has already helped IndiGo, India’s top airline, and SpiceJet Ltd., both of which posted surprise profits in the quarter through December. The South Asian nation resumed international flights earlier this month after two pandemic-hit years.
Aviation will work as a jobs multiplier and can bring in a more than threefold return on investment, he said, adding the need to boost connectivity with the less accessible northeastern states in India and the islands.
While only 8% of India’s almost 1.4 billion population travels by air currently, Scindia said planes can become a mass mode of transport.
“Today’s civil aviation is going to be tomorrow’s railways in terms of transport in our country,” he said. “That is the potential we need to tap.”–Bloomberg