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India Records domestic air traffic in Dec

56 Lakh People Took To The Skies, Growth Of 20% Over Same Month In ´11

New Delhi: Forget slowdown fears. Indians flew like never before within the country in the holiday month of December with 56.3 lakh people taking to the skies. This surge also took the number of domestic flyers in 2011 just past the 6 crore-mark, up 16.6% from previous year’s figure of 5.2 crore.

According to Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), India is the fastest growing aviation market in the world with the 2011-12 fiscal likely to record a growth of 17-18%—among the highest in the world. While making public the passenger figures on Monday, the government is yet to give out the market shares and aircraft occupancies for December.

In November, 2011, when 54 lakh people took to the Indian skies, aircraft occupancy ranged from 88.7% (Indi-Go) to 76% (Air India). The extra surge in December would have seen even higher load factors.

"Domestic travel is growing very fast now. December saw huge growth of 15-20% over same month in 2010 and there is no sign of a slowdown here. However, international traffic did not show any rise last month and that is mainly due to the rupee’s fall against the dollar, among other reasons," said Benson Samuel of Riya Travels.

Other travel industry and airline officials also confirm this fact. “The dollar’s rise has done more than anything to promote travel within the country. We still have people putting their international travel plans on hold till the rupee stabilizes at a more sober level. The 50-mark (conversion rate) is a serious psychological barrier,” said an airline official.

Intriguingly, the record passenger numbers and high aircraft occupancies have not led to any improvement in airline bottom lines. Except IndiGo, all other airlines are reporting losses. CAPA (India) head Kapil Kaul said: "Indian carriers are collectively expected to lose Rs 12,500 crore ($2.5 billion) this fiscal, the highest ever loss in a year. Of this, private carriers will lose over Rs 4,000 crore and AI will account for the rest. Indi-Go may be the only airline to make profit this fiscal, although its operating part of the same will reduce."

These loss figures have now led to calls from a section of the aviation industry that airlines stop under-recovery of cost (read hike fares) and fly out of red, even if it means paring growth. “It is better to have a 10-12% growth and be profitable instead of growing at 17-18% (expected this fiscal) and lose $2.5 billion,” said Kaul. Boeing India head Dinesh Keskar also had the same to say recently.

A leading airport operator said: "Our growth numbers are good but our outstanding from airlines is getting unmanageable now. AI dues are close to Rs 1,000 crore now and Kingfisher is over Rs 200 crore. This is affecting our modernization drive too. The sinking airlines are now threatening to take us down along with them," he said.

WINGS ON FIRE : India is the fastest growing aviation market in the world 56.3 lakh Indians took domestic flights in Dec Number of domestic flyers this year up 16.6% at over 6 cr 2011-12 fiscal likely to record a growth of 17-18% Except IndiGo, all other airlines are reporting losses Indian carriers collectively expected to lose 12,500 crore this fiscal AI dues close to 1,000 crore and Kingfisher is over 200 crore