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New Delhi: India is a key aviation market for the Asia Pacific region as well as the rest of the world and is expected to see robust air travel demand, global airlines’ grouping IATA said on Tuesday amid the country’s domestic air passenger traffic inching towards pre-COVID levels.

After being significantly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian aviation sector is on the recovery path and airlines are also ramping up their staff as well as expanding routes to cater to the rising travel demand.

On October 9, the daily number of domestic air passengers touched 4 lakh, nearing the pre-COVID level and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday described the trend as a “great sign”.

India’s civil aviation sector is poised for phenomenal growth in terms of passengers, aircraft and airport. The country is projected to have 40 crore air travellers, including domestic and international, by 2027, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said in August.

During an online briefing on Tuesday, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Asia Pacific Philip Goh said the Indian market is a “very important market and is already contributing massively to some parts of the world.

“I can see many airline companies are starting, resuming or expanding network to India. Definitely, a key market (India) for the region and the rest of the world,” he said.

According to him, the Indian market is huge and the demand is expected to be quite robust as long as the economics of flying within India and out of India does not changed drastically.

“India as a market has got some unique factors like very high fuel prices because of taxes… but we do expect India to be robust in terms of demand,” he added.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) represents around 290 airlines worldwide, including those from India.

On Monday, Scindia said the civil aviation sector is on the road to full recovery. “… the Indian civil aviation has not only hit the 4-lakh daily passengers mark, but also achieved the highest ever numbers since pre Covid 19 era! Way to go,” he tweeted.

Along with Scindia’s tweet, Modi, on Tuesday, tweeted saying, “Great sign. Our focus is to further improve connectivity across India, which is important for ‘Ease of Living’ and economic progress”.

Meanwhile, rating agency Icra on Tuesday said the country’s domestic air passenger traffic is estimated to have touched around 1.03 crore in September, higher than 1.01 crore recorded in August.

Last month’s figure is about 46 per cent higher compared to the domestic passenger traffic in September 2021 but around 10 per cent lower compared to pre-COVID levels, that is September 2019, as per the rating agency.

About the overall aviation market in the Asia Pacific region, IATA’s Philip Goh said the momentum is strong even though there is an impact of restrictions in China.

There are economic headwinds for airlines with tight labour market and high jet fuel prices. Also, geopolitical issues and inflation are impacting traveller confidence and demand, he noted.

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