Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday exuded confidence that air travel will reach pre-COVID levels by the end of the current year or by early next year. Addressing the 'Deccan Dialogue' organised by Indian School of Business (ISB) in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs, he said for the civil aviation sector to reach the pre-COVID level, people are required to continue to maintain safety protocol with self-discipline.
"We opened civil aviation on 25th May, a good two months and two days after we had completely locked down, with 30,000 passengers a day. Two or three days ago, just before Diwali, we carried 225,000 people," he said.
"At a scale at which we are opening up in a calibrated manner, we have already reached 70 per cent capacity and I have asked my colleagues to look at 80 per cent. I am confident that by 31st December or soon thereafter... means a week or two thereafter, we will be back to pre-COVID levels," he added.
Puri said he was committed to bring aviation GDP back to India. He was confident that the sector would get a boost in the next few years with the country getting 100 new airports and the fleet size reaching up to 2,000 from around 750 now.
"Our fleet size today should be around 750. I know airlines when they come across a pandemic like this, they try to curtail the size of their fleet orders. But, I can say with seven per cent penetration which means out of every 100 Indians, only seven fly and a 17 per cent rate of growth which we experienced pre-COVID at one time. We will move from 750, not to the 1,200 which everybody says, but to 2,000 aircraft. We will do it pretty quickly," he said.
He said that there is a massive opportunity for investors across the aviation ecosystem including airports, airlines, ground-handling, maintenance, repair and overhaul.
The minister also revealed that Indian carriers get a mere 17% of the value of traffic between India and the US. "The value of traffic between India and the US is roughly 7 billion dollars annually. How much do Indian carriers get out of that traffic, a mere 17%. It is not as if American carriers are getting the remaining 83%. I am not going to say who is getting it. But I see no reason why Indian flagship carriers and private carriers should not be earning more money flying passengers," he said while terming this as a distorted business model.
Puri, who is also the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, hoped that the country would be able to reposition itself as an economic player in the global supply chain before long.
He said even during the times of the pandemic, global technology majors like Google, Amazon and Mubadala announced $20 billion investment in India.
He also said that the Aatmanirbhar Bharat concept and process would definitely lead to a stronger India post-COVID.