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As India grows its aviation market, the government is making sure that its homegrown airlines have an advantage over foreign carriers. However, will Indian carriers rise to the occasion?

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A debate over market access was rekindled at an aviation event in India as foreign carriers seeking additional capacity to serve more routes in India feared the Tata Group-owned Air India’s rebirth and record order of 470 jets might capture most of the market. Dubai’s Emirates, Turkish Airlines and Kuwaiti carrier Jazeera Airways have all called for sharp increases in air traffic rights to and from India to meet demand. Vietnam and Indonesia also want more flights, an Indian official said. However, speaking to Reuters India’s civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said the country has no plans to increase air traffic rights for the United Arab Emirates. He instead urged domestic carriers to fly long haul and help establish new hubs. “We are going to see an explosion of air traffic in India in the years to come,” he said, adding he wanted domestic carriers to focus on international expansion. “We are not getting enough share from this market,” Turkish Airlines Chief Executive Bilal Eksi said. Dubai has requested an extra 50,000 seats a week on India routes while Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways said the current weekly allowance of 12,000 was inadequate and asked for the cap to be raised to 28,000 seats.  

India may require 31,000 pilots and some 26,000 mechanics over the next 20 years amid the growing order book of the aircraft original equipment manufacturers, according to U.S. aircraft maker Boeing. The focus should be on making infrastructure robust, both hard infrastructure which includes airports as well as critical infrastructure, which includes pilots, among others, said Boeing India President Salil Gupte. Tata Group-owned Air India had last month placed orders for 470 passenger planes from both Boeing and European planemaker Airbus. Last September, Boeing had projected India’s air traffic growth at around 7 percent through 2040. Gupte said the recovery in air travel demand post the pandemic has stunned the world and Boeing does not see any impact of the financial crisis on air travel growth.

Arunachal Pradesh governor Lt Gen K T Parnaik has suggested joint ventures between France and the northeast Indian state in the field of tourism and clean and renewable energies. Arunachal Pradesh has the second largest forest cover in India and has huge potential in the hydropower and tourism sectors, Parnaik shared during a meeting with Consul General of France Didier Talpain. “Arunachal Pradesh is bestowed with ecotourism, religious tourism, adventure tourism and cultural tourism potential,” Parnaik pointed out. Higher education, developmental projects and cultural exchange programs between France and Arunachal Pradesh were also discussed. Cultural exchange programs can strengthen the future of the Indo-French relationship, the governor said. 

Pilgrimage sites in India earned $16.28 billion in 2022, up from $7.8 billion in 2021, according to data released by the Indian ministry of tourism. 1.43 billion domestic tourists visited places of pilgrimage in the country in in 2022, as against 6.64 million foreign tourists. In 2021, the numbers stood at 677 million and 1.05 million, respectively. While the ministry of tourism does not maintain the revenue generated through religious centers, it does have an account of foreign exchange earnings. The tourism ministry’s National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD) scheme — launched in 2014-15 — provides financial assistance to the state governments/union territories for the development of tourism infrastructure in the country. 

The Indian capital of Delhi accounted for nearly 40 percent of total foreign tourists arriving in India in 2021, according to Economic Survey 2022-23. Around 6.06 lakh Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTA) were recorded in the capital during 2021. Delhi has also ranked third in total foreign tourist visits in 2021 with a total share of 9.5 percent as per India Tourism Statistics at a Glance-2022, the report stated. Besides New Delhi and Mumbai, the top eight international check posts for foreign tourist arrivals are Haridaspur (8.73), Chennai (7.87), Bengaluru (6.72), Hyderabad (5.65), Cochin (3.96) and Kolkata (2.85), it said. 

Direct flights between India and Western Australia’s Perth are being explored as discussions are being initiated with at least three Indian carriers — Air India, Vistara and IndiGo. Deputy Premier of Western Australia and Tourism Minister Roger Cook said discussions are on to start direct flights between India and Perth. The Western Australia government and Perth airport are discussing the possibilities of what can be offered to Indian carriers, Cook told the Indian media. India has no direct air connectivity to Perth and the present ones are either through Singapore or via Melbourne and Sydney. Visitors generally prefer taking flights to Sydney and then travel to Perth via domestic flights or by road, as per data from Indian tour operators. India is one of the largest tourism markets for Western Australia, which also has a substantial Indian diaspora. 

The Sunderban Tiger Reserve (STR) — a popular tourist destination that is home to the Royal Bengal tiger — and Buxa Tiger Reserve (BTR) in Alipurduar district in the east Indian state of West Bengal will remain closed for tourists every Tuesday with effect from April 1. The move comes in the wake of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) — the country’s coordinating organization for tiger conservation — directing the forest departments across the country to keep their respective tiger reserves closed at least once a week. The aim is to give relief to the animals residing there from the disturbance arising due to tourist entry though safari jeeps and other vehicles. However, those residing at the forest slums within the reserve forest zone will have free entry and exit as usual. 

India can play a leading role in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by plugging into the global supply chain opportunities, said Aditya Ghosh, co-founder of India’s youngest airline Akasa Air. Airlines and airports will be pushed to take sustainable measures, he said but added that currently, sustainable aviation fuel is much more expensive compared to traditional fuel. The former IndiGo chief was speaking at the ongoing CAPA aviation summit in New Delhi. There is a gap of around $350 million in terms of funding between traditional aviation fuel and 10 percent blended fuel, he said. In this context, blended fuel means 10 percent of SAF blended with traditional fuel. The government is working on mandating blending of jet fuel with SAF as the country works on ways to reduce emissions.

Tata Group-owned Air India will launch direct flights between Pune and Mumbai from March 26. The airline will operate six days a week, excluding Saturdays, and deploy an Airbus A319 — the smallest aircraft in its fleet — on this sector. Air India will depart from Pune airport at 11:20 am and arrive in Mumbai at 12:20 am. The Pune-Mumbai route was the first air connection ever established at the Pune airport, but today, no direct flights fly between the two cities. The last of the lot was run by Jet Airways, which shut its operations in April 2019. After the Airports Authority of India recently confirmed action on starting services between the airports, Air India has become the first airline to provide direct connectivity with the revival of its old Mumbai-Pune route.

India will be getting its first night sky sanctuary in the north Indian union territory of Ladakh. The sanctuary will give a fillip to astro tourism and help generate revenue as well as livelihood, said union minister of science and technology Jitendra Singh. Spread over 414 square miles, the night sky reserve is located within the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary and adjacent to the Indian Astronomical Observatory, the second-highest optical telescope in the world, of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics at Hanleat at an elevation of 4,500 meters. “This dark sky reserve is among only 15 or 16 of its kind in the world that will offer a spectacular view of the night sky. Because of its altitude and location across the Himalayas in the rain shadow area, this night sky reserve is the ideal place for star gazers almost throughout the year,” said Singh. He added that projects are afoot on developing food products from Leh Berry, the nutritionally rich and exotic fruit of the region.


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Tags: air india, airbus, akasa air, arunachal pradesh, Boeing, delhi, france, india, indigo, mumbai, religious travel, skift india report, tourism, turkish airlines, vistara, west bengal

Photo credit: India's civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia urged domestic carriers to fly long-haul and help establish new hubs.

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