Neelu Khatri
01 Aug 2023

Akasa Air Celebrates Year One with Indian Aviation’s Phenomenal Growth



The Indian civil aviation industry is beyond resilient, having survived the unprecedented pandemic, when air travel was paused across the globe. The rebound in air traffic since then has been at a fast clip. India’s substantial middle-class is expected to fuel India’s aviation with more access to affordable travel, doubling from one in three Indian flyers to two in three by 2047.


By March 2023, bookings have bounced back to pre-Covid volumes for domestic trips and are nearly there for international trips. Domestic passenger capacity has exceeded the levels seen before the pandemic. Domestic air passenger traffic registered an annual growth of 36.1 percent in January-May 2023, over the same period in 2022, according to DGCA. Riding a quick recovery, Indian aviation is frequently clocking over 400,000 passengers a day since December 2022. 

It is not just the metros of Delhi and Mumbai fuelling growth but a steady increase in traffic from tier II and III towns has led to bullish expectations for the aviation sector. The fact that Akasa Air has flown over 3.5 million passengers since its launch attests to the strong demand we have seen across the network. The aviation industry has been steadily recovering as a result of travellers' increased confidence in flying, and the trend will only continue. 


Launch of Akasa Air and its successful 1 year of operations


It is safe to say that at Akasa Air, we have significantly been growing our operations since inception, with a fleet size of 19 aircraft, flying to 16 destinations across the nation. Our customers have expressed great appreciation for our industry-first offerings and customer-centric policies, which include allowing pets on board, providing USB connections, and a comfortable cabin environment. The fact that more than 3.5 million passengers have flown is a testament to the pent-up demand among flyers for an affordable airline that does not compromise on customer experience, and by embodying such a brand, we expect to continue to grow our business and service. 


As a part of Akasa Air’s initial order of 72 Boeing 737 Max aircraft, we will soon reach the milestone of 20 aircraft in the fleet. We have since then placed an order for four more aircraft, raising the total to 76 planes, and we also have plans to place another large three-digit aircraft order by the end of this year to meet the rising demand. 


The Indian aviation industry is seeing a robust pick-up and is gearing up for rapid expansion in the next few years. It will lead to an exponential increase in demand and opportunities for pilots and cabin crew. At Akasa Air, all our talent strategies are rooted in employee-centricity, which has been our goal from day one.  We base our hiring strategy on a candidate's ability to advance quickly in their career. We want to welcome talented individuals who want to begin their careers in the commercial airline business to join us and grow quickly. To improve operational efficiency, Akasa Air promotes a diverse and inclusive work environment. We are also in the process of rapidly expanding our fleet and network and are on the verge of placing a substantial aircraft order, mostly likely before the end of this year. We have been hiring pilots and cabin crew to meet our pace of growth. 


While Akasa Air builds a strong national presence and offers connections from metros to tier II and III destinations nationwide, we are building on the airline’s core goal of boosting accessibility to air travel for all Indians. Our phased approach to support our network plans, progressively connecting more cities, allows us to provide continuous, reliable, and efficient connections between aviation sectors/routes. To ensure that our services fulfil the needs and expectations of our consumers, we continuously consider feedback from customers to tweak our offerings and improve on them. 


Making the sky affordable for everyone is part of Akasa Air’s core founding vision and our way of serving the country. All of our efforts ultimately facilitate affordable air travel between rural and urban areas, and we'll keep expanding our network and product offerings to enhance the country's transport infrastructure.



Future of the Indian aviation industry


India ranks third in the world by way of seat capacity for domestic air travel. India has 148 airports and with the recent budget announcements has added to the planned addition of aerodromes for boosting regional air connectivity under the government’s Udan scheme. In addition to 100 airports already planned, 50 airports, heliports, waterdromes have been sanctioned to be built in the next couple of years.


The significant aircraft orders announced by Indian airlines signal a new era for the country's civil aviation industry. India's demand for air travel is at an all-time high, allowing both major airlines to grow and strengthen their operations and new entrants to establish themselves. India now has roughly 750 aircraft but is expected to have around 1,200 by 2027, with the government providing robust infrastructure (including more ATC staff) to handle the increase in demand. India is estimated to see more than 140 million passengers flying in FY-2024, according to the civil aviation ministry. In the next 20 years, India will transport more than 1.3 billion passengers a year, estimates the Sydney-based CAPA Centre for Aviation.

Modern technology, automation, and evolving workplace paradigms have fundamentally changed how the aviation industry hires and engages employees. Given the expansion of the sector, airlines should place a high priority on providing their staff with the knowledge and skills to overcome challenges and take advantage of opportunities. Airlines are starting to use a variety of technologies, such as Metaverse, AR (augmented reality), and VR (virtual reality), for effective training and aircraft maintenance. 



Players are actively investing in technologies to minimize their carbon footprint and ensure sustainable operations because the global aviation sector has committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The technology of blockchain will be used more frequently to track customer luggage and freight, enhance passenger identity verification, and automate payments. We could also see more widespread use of IoT (Internet of Things) for aviation maintenance, safety, and continuous monitoring. The sector is on the threshold of enormous expansion, and it will keep innovating with cutting-edge technologies that will make flying a seamless experience.


We may be the most populous country in the world but are underserved in terms of airline capacity. We need several airlines to fulfil such a surge in demand. The Indian aviation sector has a bright future, and the market is large enough for many carriers to profitably participate.




About the Author 


Neelu Khatri is the Co-Founder, Senior Vice President and Head of Operations at Akasa Air. She comes with over 25 years of professional expertise and has spent most of her career in the Defense and Aerospace industry. She is an ex-Indian Air Force Wing Commander from the first batch of women officers back in 1993. Besides, she has also handled P&L for various global organisations, including Honeywell in India and served over five years working as a Director in the Civil Aviation and Aerospace department for KPMG. Moreover, she has authored numerous thought leadership documents on the regulations of the sector.  At Akasa Air, she is responsible for Operations Planning and Control, Airports, Maintenance and Engineering and Flight Operations.