FLYING LOW AND HIGH
Low-cost airlines can help bridge metro- mofussil divide paradoxically, even as India’s long-fettered civil aviation sector was all set to take off with strategic mergers and buy-ins, some 12,000 ground staff of the state-owned domestic carrier, Indian, went on a sudden strike paralysing the airline’s services all over the country. This goes to show that the Indian skies will continue to experience a bumpy ride until increasing competitive efficiency helps to clear the air. There are signs that this is happening. The low-cost carriers that have sprung up in India in the last couple of years have helped unleash the potential of the country’s aviation sector. They have proved that not only urban travellers but also people from tier two and tier three cities yearn to fly and have the resources to do so.
India has the fastest-growing number of air passengers in the world. While only 15 million passengers, a little more than the number of people who use the rail network in a single day, travelled by air in 2003-04, the figure was almost 75 million in 2005-06. This number is expected to grow substantially to approximately 350 million passengers by 2020.
Sensing this phenomenal growth many Asian carriers are queuing up to provide international connectivity to and from India. The international traffic out of India is expected to grow by 15 per cent this year. Foreign low-cost carriers are offering unprecedented fares to international destinations. And as competition increases, India’s own airlines would be forced to bring down their fares in the international sector as well. Already announcements have been made that Jet-Lite and Air Deccan are considering flying on international routes soon. They would most probably offer services as
What is interesting is that the foreign low-cost carriers are targeting India’s tier two and tier three cities. This is a smart move and the government must go all out to back them. Instead of protecting state-owned airlines, the government must focus on facilitating private players. Overheads for operating from small cities, like airport fees, are much lower compared to the metros. The move will not only make international air travel affordable to thousands of Indians but would also lead to faster development of India’s smaller towns. There are 454 airports and airstrips in India, including abandoned and unused ones. if the government revives them, they could go a long way in benefiting mofussil India.
(a) Answer the following questions briefly-
(i) What has helped to unleash the potential of the country’s aviation sector?
(ii) Why are many Asian carriers queuing up to provide international connectivity to and from India?
(iii) What will happen, as the competition between the fares increases?
(iv) Why are the foreign low-cost carriers targeting India’s tier two and tier three cities?
(v) How will international air travel become affordable?
(vi)How many people travelled by air in 2003-04?
(vii)What will happen if the abandoned and unused airstrips are revived?
(viii)How can sudden strikes be put off?
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