Sounding bullish, DGCA expects more than 100 million domestic passengers to fly by the year end, especially as India has outstripped passenger traffic growth in this sector across major global economies including the US and China last year.
The number of passengers flown by the Indian airlines stood at 81.09 million in the January-December period last year, a jump of 20.34 per cent from 67.38 million they had flown in 2014, as per the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) data.
“We have now crossed in the past four months of the current year (January-April) 30 million domestic passengers and growth is 23 per cent. At this rate, we will cross 100 million domestic passengers by the end of this year which perhaps is the highest in the entire world,” DGCA Chief M Sathiyavathy said at an aviation event last week.
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“The country which is second (in passenger growth terms) is nowhere near us,” she said in an apparent reference to China, which logged 10.9 per cent growth in domestic traffic last year.
Air traffic has been posting more than 20 per cent growth over the past several months with travel demand in April surging to 20.93 per cent over the same month of 2015 driven by lower fares.
Earlier this year, Sydney-based aviation think-tank Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) had in its forecast said that India will have over 100 million fliers by March 2017.
Sathiyavathy said that the domestic aviation industry has about 1,200 aircraft, leaving aside microlites and hand gliders.
“With scheduled airlines, we have more than 400 aircraft and if we are going to post the growth of over 20 per cent over the next few years, which is what we expect, you can imagine the number of aircrafts flying in the sky,” she said.
According to the DGCA chief, scheduled Indian carriers operate from across 80 airports in the country, adding that “of these 22 are joint user aerodromes (used both for civil and military puposes)”.
More than 25 per cent of the aerodromes are joint user aerodromes, she added.
According to an industry report presented at the India Aviation Conference in Hyderabad in March this year, India is set to become the third largest aviation market in the world by 2020.