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Update: India Airlines

© Courtesy Air India

Airlines based in India are expanding quickly to handle increased demand.

Hotels are not the only Indian businesses attaining global significance. The country’s airline industry expects to buy one passenger aircraft every fortnight for the next 10 years. According to the Indian Economic Survey of 2010 to 2011, India is likely to have the fastest-growing civil aviation market in the world by 2020. Record orders placed by national carrier Air India and privately held budget airline Indigo will generate thousands of jobs in the U.S. and France this decade. India’s civil aviation sector is gearing up for $30 billion in investments, including 12 new airports by 2025, when the country will handle 540 million passengers annually. Most of these plans impact budget airlines, which want to reach smaller cities and towns in strong economic growth mode.

In terms of domestic market share, private carriers Kingfisher Airlines, Indigo, Jet Airways and Air India commanded about 15–19 percent each, per data from February 2011. Budget carriers Spicejet, Jetlite and GoAir each control about 8–13 percent. But all this growth has come at a high cost, as most Indian airlines currently operate at a loss. Post-slowdown, the Indian government bailed out private carriers to the tune of $2 billion, and Air India is facing losses and a debt burden of $15 billion.

Escalating aviation fuel prices have hit private players, such as Kingfisher and Jet, which have trimmed their frills (including smiling baggage handlers at all airports and champagne in first class on intercontinental flights). But there’s still hope for business travelers who have big expense accounts and little patience with flight schedules: Indian companies have ordered more than 100 new executive jets, further crowding the country’s skies.

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