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Flying out of the clouds

Indian aviation is finally showing sure signs of recovery.

Kushan Mitra and E. Kumar Sharma         Print Edition: April 4, 2010

These are early days yet, but the aviation industry seems to be turning the corner—slowly and surely. Several key indicators, like passenger numbers and seat load factors, reveal an incipient recovery over the last few months. In fact, close to 4.5 million passengers flew in India in December, which was the highest number of passengers flying domestically ever. And in January, Indian airlines flew 7,50,000 more passengers than a year ago.

Already, airlines are pushing ahead with expansion plans. Indigo, a low-cost carrier which serves 20 Indian cities, is expanding its network, adding Jammu and Srinagar by April 2010, and looking to add some more cities before the year is out. It recently got its 25th Airbus A320 aircraft.

"We will add another nine aircraft to our fleet this year," says Aditya Ghosh, President, Indigo. The airline will also hire 1,000 more in the coming months, including 100 flight crew and 400 cabin crew. Vijay Mallya, Chairman, Kingfisher Airlines, is spreading out as well with flights being added from Delhi to London Heathrow, Hong Kong and Bangkok. Jet Airways and SpiceJet are so bullish that they expect to stay in the black in the coming quarters and Kingfisher hopes to become profitable in the next financial year.

Airbus SAS and Boeing, the world's two biggest planemakers, are particularly upbeat about their business prospects in India. Says Boeing India President Dinesh Keskar: "India's domestic air travel is reverting to its long-term growth trends." Boeing and Airbus have reinforced their 20-year aviation outlook for India and expect to supply about 1,000 new aircraft over this period. Clearly, the Indian aviation industry seems to have risen from the ashes of 2008.

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