By Sanjeeb Kumar Sahoo
If rise in passenger footfall in Patna’s Jayaprakash Narayan International Airport in October is any indication, good days are ahead for India aviation industry. Following the easing of restrictions during the festive season, the airport saw a surge in the number of passengers. 1.99 lakh passengers had flown to and from Patna airport in September and 2.71 lakh flyers have done so in October, according to the data of Airports Authority of India’s (AAI).
There has been a 34% growth in passenger footfall at the city airport due to the festive rush and a 36% rise in flight movement when compared to the previous month.
The airport handled 2,600 flights in October and 1,754 in September. The highest footfall was recorded on October 17 just after Durga Puja when 6,541 passengers arrived at the airport and 6,584 left. Altogether 43 flights landed in the city and 43 took off from here.
Darbhanga Airport, which started flight operations on November 8 last year, has also witnessed a rush in the number of passengers travelling to and out of Darbhanga in October. Ministry of Civil Aviation Minister informed that Darbhanga airport was one of most successful examples under the Regional Connectivity scheme (RCS).
Meanwhile, India’s ace investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, recently entered in aviation sector to start a new low-cost airline in the country. Jhunjhunwala-backed Akasa Air signed a deal with Boeing for 72 fuel-efficient 737 MAX airplanes. The new Indian carrier’s order, valued at nearly $9 billion, includes 737-8 and high-capacity 737-8-200 airplanes.
Even as all airlines were impacted by the pandemic and faced severe financial distress when restrictions were imposed to reduce Covid-19 spread, Jhunjhunwala remains bullish about the aviation sector.
Recently, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said that his ministry plans to double the number of airports in the country to more than 200 by the year 2023-24. Addressing a conference of the ministers of civil aviation from states and UTs, minister said the Centre plans to set up at least one heliport in each district in collaboration with states and UTs.
On the issue of seaplanes, Scindia said that the states should provide capital support for this initiative. Besides, he appealed to states and UTs to bring down VAT on aviation fuel as it contributes majorly to the operational cost of the flights.
Currently, India has one of the highest state governments levied VAT rates on jet fuel. This makes the overall cost of airline operations high. According to industry estimates, ATF prices constitute over 40 per cent of the total operating cost of domestic carriers and this was 70 per cent higher than the global average. Such step is needed for the sector as it has also huge employment potential.
The article was published on 21 November Print Edition, 2021