Global Airlines Expand in India, Anticipating Major Market Growth
Global Airlines Expand in India, Anticipating Major Market Growth

 Dubai: Global airlines are increasingly launching new flights and expanding schedules in India, anticipating that the South Asian nation will become one of the hottest travel markets over the next decade, according to airline officials and analysts. India, one of the fastest-growing major aviation markets, was a focal point at the recent industry gathering of global airline CEOs and aircraft leasing companies in Dubai, as domestic and international air travel continues to surge.

The domestic air travel market in India is projected to double, reaching 300 million passengers from a record 152 million in 2023, based on government data. International traffic is expected to grow even faster, with estimates from aviation research group CAPA India indicating an increase to 160 million passengers by 2030 from 64 million last year.

To capitalize on this growth, Turkish Airlines is considering flights between its southern beach town of Antalya and India, according to Chairman Ahmet Bolat at The International Air Transport Association (IATA) summit. These routes may be operated through Sun Express, a joint venture with Lufthansa, or via its Indian codeshare partner IndiGo.

Hungary-based budget carrier Wizz Air aims to launch its first flights to India next year, CEO Jozsef Varadi mentioned at a separate aviation conference in New Delhi organized by CAPA India.

The robust outlook has led India's two largest airlines, budget carrier IndiGo and Tata Group's Air India, to place record orders for hundreds of new planes, set for delivery over the next decade.

India's total aircraft fleet is expected to grow to more than 1,500 by 2030, up from around 700 currently, with most planes financed through sale and leaseback deals, making the country attractive to aircraft lessors. "The demand growth is unlike what we see in any other jurisdictions," said Firoz Tarapore, CEO of aircraft leasing company Dubai Aerospace Enterprise.

The government supports this growth with an investment of about $12 billion in new and upgraded airports. "India is taking its place on the world stage," said IndiGo CEO Pieter Elbers, who moved to India two years ago from his position as CEO of Dutch carrier KLM.

However, some major international airlines are frustrated by the lack of market access. Emirates and Turkish Airlines seek more flight capacity rights in India, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is prioritizing domestic carriers. "In the end, you are compromising the strength of your economy by restricting access not only of Emirates, but all foreign carriers," Emirates President Tim Clark said at the Dubai conference.

Much of India's travel growth is expected to come from its 35 million expatriates, primarily residing in North America, Europe, and South Africa, as well as from a growing number of young, adventurous Indian travelers with rising incomes.

"This coming decade is India's decade for growth," said independent aviation analyst Brendan Sobie, suggesting that India could see a travel boom similar to what China experienced in the decade before the COVID pandemic.

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