The aviation industry is poised for soaring growth after flying through the current turbulence, writes Boeing counsel Akhil Prasad

The aviation industry has come a long way since the first commercial flight in India on 18 February 1911 between Prayagraj and Naini in Allahabad.

Even though the distance was only about 10km, and the flight was used for delivering mail, it was the first foray into commercial aviation for the country.

Then, on 15 October 1932, the father of civil aviation, JRD Tata, took mail from Karachi to Mumbai and formed his own airline, Tata Airways, which later became Air India. In 1953, the government decided to nationalize the aviation industry and passed the Air Corporations Act, 1953, whereby two corporations, namely Indian Airlines and Air India International, were constituted.

The iconic brand of the Maharaja is still popular and associated with Air India today. Indian Airlines was formed for domestic travel, while Air India flew international routes. All other airlines were merged into Indian Airlines and Air India.

India’s economy was liberalized in 1991 and one of the important outcomes was that the airline industry was opened to private participation, which acted as a catalyst and a boon for the growth of civil aviation in the country. Air Asiatic became the first private airline to fly across India post-liberalization.

In 1994, the Air Corporation Act was repealed, and private airlines were allowed to operate charter and non-scheduled services under the “air taxi” scheme, when carriers like Air Sahara, Modiluft, Damania Airways and NEPC Airlines, started commercial operations of civil aviation in India. As India’s travel business started to boom in 2004–05, more entrepreneurs ventured into commercial aviation and started Air Deccan, Air Sahara, Kingfisher Airlines, SpiceJet, GoAir, Paramount Airways and IndiGo.

With private operators adopting aggressive strategies, and tie-ups with international carriers, civil aviation started to look at consolidation, and accordingly, in 2007, Air Sahara and Air Deccan were acquired by Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines, respectively.

Due to financial difficulties, Paramount Airways ceased operations in 2010 and Kingfisher Airlines followed in 2012. The Tata Group, which had started with Tata Airways, re-entered the civil aviation business by launching two airlines, namely, AirAsia India (a joint venture between Air Asia and Tata Sons) and Vistara (a JV between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines).

Today, the commercial aviation landscape for India comprises Air India and Air India Express, Air Asia, Blue Dart, GoAir, Indigo, SpiceJet and Vistara.

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AKHIL PRASAD is India country counsel and company secretary at Boeing International Corpora- tion. The views expressed in the article are personal.