The country's civil aviation sector is witnessing a very strong V-shaped recovery with encouraging domestic passenger numbers, and the growth will continue in the coming years, Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Wednesday.
After being significantly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the sector is on the recovery path and the daily domestic air passenger traffic has been above the 4-lakh mark for the past few weeks.
Against the backdrop of congestion at airports that has now eased, the civil aviation minister also said efforts have been made to ensure that airport operators put in place steps that will allow the decongestion of airports.
In an interview with PTI, Scindia said the domestic passenger numbers are very encouraging and already, the number is around 111 million till November this year.
"I believe that the civil aviation sector has rebounded and what we in economic parlance say V-shaped recovery. A very strong V-shaped recovery. I do believe that (with the) value proposition that airlines and airports offer our customers, we are seeing greater participation and a greater desire to travel by air which is why we are looking at these very very high numbers. I am very confident that this growth in India will continue in the years to come," he said.
On Tuesday, the number of departing domestic air passengers stood at 4,15,426 while the number of departing domestic flights was at 2,883, as per the latest data from the civil aviation ministry.
"Though there is a great amount of jubilation at crossing the pre-Covid 2019 number of roughly 4.15 lakh passengers per day consecutively in the last two weeks and at 4.35 lakh on December 24, I would lay more emphasis on the fact that if you look at the numbers throughout the year, in 2019, we were close at around 144 million passengers (domestic).
"On a pro-rata basis till November, we were looking at around 95 million... today, at the end of November, we are already at 111 million, so we are up 15 per cent from that number on a consecutive basis till November," he said.
About the current coronavirus situation worldwide and its shadow on the civil aviation sector, Scindia said Covid is always a concern.
"The very fact that we have very high Covid numbers across the world today from China to South Korea to Japan to European countries, it is certainly a concern.
"We have to be careful, which is why we have put in place what the health ministry requested us and mandated us for 2 per cent screening of all passengers coming into India. Fortunately, we are not seeing that high positivity numbers at least currently... I think we need to still wait and watch the situation," he said.
On congestion at airports, including in Delhi, the civil aviation minister said there was no anticipation of such a huge number of passengers during the festive season.
"We have put our boots on the ground and we have grasped the situation... it is the airports' responsibility and job to provide that seamless travel capability between demand and supply," he said, adding that in this regard, two things are important.
One is to be able to control peak hour traffic based on the throughput capability of the airport as well as increase the capacity of throughput within the airport, he noted.
In the wake of complaints from various quarters about congestion resulting in long queues and waiting hours at airports, especially in Delhi, the ministry took various steps, and the situation has eased.
"Today, I am happy to note that we have looked at both reducing the number of arrivals and takeoffs at peak period hours as well as increasing the throughput capability of Delhi airport. (This is by) increasing the number of gates for access and by putting in systems such as TV monitors as well as ushers to help people and increase the number of security lines from 11+2 and today we have almost 20 lines," the minister said.
These steps, Scindia said, have really reduced the number of bottlenecks that were there. "It is imperative to put those processes at Mumbai airport and Bengaluru airport (also)."
When asked whether airport operators were not well prepared to deal with high passenger numbers resulting in congestion, Scindia said, "I don't think there was a forecast capability and anticipation of high numbers that you and I are talking about".
This is not the time to necessarily look at assigning the blame but really look at tackling the problem at hand and making the travel process and experience much more seamless for our travellers. "That is where I am concentrating on," the minister said.
Talking about international air traffic, Scindia said it is roughly 20-25 per cent lower than the 2019 numbers.
"I see a sequential rise in that also as we go along. Both for domestic as well as international, we have looked at the systems and we have made sure that airport operators put in place steps that will allow the decongestion of airports," Scindia said.
On Tuesday, the number of arriving international passengers stood at 82,293.