Indian aviation taxied on runway of promises

Delhi IGI airport (File) Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi | AFP

Many highs and lows marked the 2015 trajectory of domestic aviation space with three airlines taking off, one coming back after a near-collapse, a no-frills carrier getting listed and India again securing top safety ranking even as the draft aviation policy remained in limbo.

All said and done, fliers might have to shell out more from next year with the government proposing two per cent levy on all tickets to fund regional connectivity plans even as the draft policy promises various tax sops for the sector.

At the same time, Civil Aviation Ministry saw a change of Secretary while the two ministers—Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Mahesh Sharma—found themselves at different ends on various policy issues including on the idea of regulating airfares. Besides, M. Sathiyavathy took over as the first woman head of regulatory body DGCA.

Towards the end of the year, a freak accident that saw a service engineer being sucked by an Air India aircraft engine at Mumbai airport, once again brought to the fore safety and security issues at airports.

In another unprecedented development, Chennai airport was shut for five days following heavy floods in early December.

On the regulatory front, Competition Commission slapped a total penalty of Rs 258 crore on Jet Airways, IndiGo and SpiceJet for alleged cartelisation in fixing fuel surcharge on air cargo. The order is likely to be challenged by them.

The disappointment of the year, however, is government's failure in finalising the re-drafted aviation policy, which will also decide the fate of existing norm for international operations by Indian carriers.

This is despite junior minister Sharma providing tentative time lines for the implementation of the policy.

2015 took off with Vistara launching its first flight to Mumbai from Delhi on January 9. The Tata-SIA joint venture airline became the third domestic full service carrier after Air India and Jet Airways.

However, what made it stand out from the rest two was its roll out of a new cabin class —premium economy—in addition to conventional business and economy class on its aircraft.

Two regional airlines—Air Paegasus and TruJet—took wings with launch of services in the south.

After being on the verge of closure, SpiceJet scripted a dramatic comeback by remaining profitable for three straight quarters till September under its new promoter Ajay Singh —who took back the reins from the Marans.

Marking the first airline IPO in nine years, InterGlobe Aviation—the parent of budget carrier IndiGo—raised over Rs 3,000 crore from the capital market.

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