The Indian aviation sector is showing positive signs after being completely shut down during the coronavirus-induced lockdown last year but remains in the ”eye of the storm”, Rémi Maillard, president and managing director, Airbus India and South Asia said in a PTI report. Indian airlines are currently carrying 60 percent of the total pre-COVID domestic passengers and this is better than most countries in the world, he said. “This is better but this is far from being a sustainable situation. We are not out of the woods yet. We are still in the eye of the storm,” he added.
Airbus has been observing positive signs such as the pent-up demand for leisure travel in India, he added. “I think there is a desire in people to fly again…Business travellers have started to come back. It is essential for your business to meet your business stakeholders or partners and for that, you need to travel. I would say in a nutshell that we are still facing a lot of headwinds with the virus and the complexity of the situation. But in the midterm, I think there will be an upswing.”
Maillard said international passenger traffic is still weak in India and it is difficult to predict how and when it would recover. Scheduled international flights continue to remain suspended in India since March last year. However, special international flights have been permitted since May last year under the Vande Bharat Mission and air bubble arrangements formed with around 24 countries.
“I think international traffic is also an opportunity for the Indian carriers. The market share of Indian carriers in the country’s international traffic is about 34 percent. It means two-third of the international traffic for the time being or before was with foreign carriers,” Maillard said. “I think it is time for Indian carriers to scale up their operations and gain control of the international traffic as well. Also, we observe that air travellers have adapted to COVID-19 with a preference to point-to-point non-stop travel to avoid connections. Again, that is the opportunity to develop long-haul travel from India.”
Maillard said recent government moves to support aviation in the latest budget were good, but more is needed. “Given the current status of the Indian civil aviation industry, we would need more support from the government in terms of tax exemptions on the air turbine fuel, imported aircraft parts, and the MRO industry,” he said. “Also, we need to continue investing in infrastructure and this is something that we have been discussing with the Ministry of Civil Aviation.”