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A burgeoning domestic sector will propel India’s aviation to even greater heights in 2024, says Jaideep Mirchandani, the group chairman of the global aviation conglomerate Sky One

During the first week of December, in a session of the Rajya Sabha, Union Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia unveiled the government’s ambitious target: to have a staggering 42 crore people in India traveling by airplane by the year 2030. This vision echoes the exponential growth of India’s Civil Aviation sector. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), India will soon become the third largest aviation market in the world displacing the UK by 2026, and the country’s passenger traffic will touch 442 million by 2025. India’s growth will be driven by various factors such as robust economic expansion and the increasing middle-class population, fuelling air passenger traffic growth and generating demand for bigger fleets of passenger aircraft.

This growth trajectory is intricately linked to the burgeoning domestic aviation in the country. In November 2023, India’s domestic air travel reached unprecedented heights as carriers transported 4,56,910 passengers, marking two consecutive historic days, according to Civil Aviation statistics. This count significantly surpassed the previous year’s record of 5,506 flight movements in 2022, reaching 5,958 flight movements on November 19, 2023.

Notably, the growth in India’s aviation sector is also evident from the substantial increase in the number of airports. In the first 65 years of Indian independence, there were 74 airports. However, at present, there are 149 functional airports, heliports, and water aerodromes, as reported by the Civil Aviation Ministry. Presently, with the Indian aviation industry experiencing high, prominent global airlines are attentively monitoring the country, eager to harness the immense potential it offers. As we approach the threshold of 2024, Indian civil aviation positions itself at the forefront of transformative developments, primed for noteworthy growth and innovation. It is equally intriguing to anticipate the key trends that will mould the landscape of Indian aviation in the years to come.

Fleet expansion and LCCs

The projected surge has led airlines to strengthen their fleets by adding an estimated 150 aircraft in the coming months. The country’s aviation fleet is reportedly set to expand by 25 per cent as well. Air India is expected to lead with an addition of more than 91 aircraft next year, followed by IndiGo with plans to add 35, and Akasa Air poised to acquire 18 aircraft. If these reports on fleet additions materialise, it would mark one of the most significant expansions in aviation history.

Low-cost carriers (LCCs) will emerge as a formidable force, fundamentally altering the dynamics of domestic travel. The remarkable surge in domestic travellers opting for price-sensitive options aligns seamlessly with the rapid expansion of LCCs. This significant shift in consumer behaviour is reshaping the narrative of air travel accessibility within India.

Infrastructure development

The government signalling substantial investments in infrastructure development is another positive sign. With ambitions for 220 operational airports by 2025, the industry is on the path of enhanced air connectivity. This upswing in infrastructure denotes not only a quantitative expansion but also a qualitative shift towards a technologically advanced, digitally connected aviation ecosystem.

Sustainable solutions

That the country is also heading towards sustainable solutions is evident in recent deals. For instance, InterGlobe Enterprises (IGE), the promoter of IndiGo is entering into a partnership with California-based electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle startup Archer Aviation to launch an electric air taxi service in India by 2026.

While electric aircraft are still in the nascent stages of adoption, their introduction heralds a future where sustainability and aviation can coexist. This trend is not only a response to environmental imperatives but also a proactive step towards aligning the industry with Sustainable Development Goals.

Technology for customer-centricity

Achieving success in a market like India not only necessitates a deep understanding of local cultures, business practices, and regulatory environments but also the unique needs of the customers. Airlines that embrace technology and integrate it into their customer experience strategy will reap significant benefits. The key lies in using data to craft tailored experiences for each passenger. By collating insights about passenger preferences and travel history, airlines can curate experiences to serve India’s diverse demographics better.

Bridging skill gaps

As the industry expands, it presents numerous opportunities for skilled professionals including world-class aviators. Simultaneously, there is a growing need for expertise in AI (Artificial Intelligence), data analytics, and automation to navigate the evolving technological landscape.

Comprehensive training programs are imperative to bridge the skills gap, providing professionals with the knowledge to decode the intricate interplay of technology and aviation. Collaborative efforts between educational institutions and industry stakeholders will play a pivotal role in shaping a workforce capable of steering the industry into the future. The government is also expected to make various policy decisions to ensure a sufficient supply of experienced pilots and technicians to the global workforce.

In summation, it can be stated that the Indian aviation industry is headed towards a future characterized by transformative growth, sustainability, and technological innovation. With significant aircraft orders, digital evolution, adoption of sustainable aviation practices, resilience in the face of challenges, and the increasing demand for a skilled workforce, the industry is all set to soar and conquer.

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