#World News

Airlines are roaring back in places you might not expect

By Suranjana Tewari

When India’s Tata Group bought the country’s national airline, it was welcomed as something of a miracle.

Air India had been mired in debt and under-funded state management for decades. No-one wanted even a piece of the iconic but loss-making carrier.

But a deal was struck in 2021, just as the world was emerging from the pandemic – and airlines were betting big on revenge travel once borders reopened.

They were right. The rebound is well and truly under way and air travel is off to a roaring start in 2024. There have been warnings of slower growth in the US, where spending is expected to plateau after a post-pandemic spike. But it is a different story on the other side of the world in Asia.

“If we look at the size of the opportunity in India, it’s already the world’s most populous country,” Air India’s chief executive Campbell Wilson told the BBC at a recent aviation event in Singapore. “It has the geographic advantage… connecting regions of the world together. And it is a hugely underserved market.”

By 2042, India’s domestic aviation market is expected to be five times the size it was in 2019, with Indians taking around 685 million trips every year, according to plane maker Airbus. That would make the South Asian nation one of the world’s fastest-growing civil aviation markets, and third after China and the United States.

It is not just India. By the middle of the century, Indonesia, which now ranks 13th globally in passenger numbers, is predicted to jump to the fourth spot, analysts say. Air travel is also expected to boom in the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam in the coming decades.

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