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  4. Domestic air passenger traffic grows to about 138.9 million in May, sees 5.1% annual increase: Icra

Domestic air passenger traffic grows to about 138.9 million in May, sees 5.1% annual increase: Icra

Domestic air passenger traffic grows to about 138.9 million in May, sees 5.1% annual increase: Icra
Domestic air passenger traffic grew 5.1 per cent year-on-year to an estimated 138.9 million in May and was significantly higher by around 14 per cent than pre-Covid levels, credit ratings agency Icra said on Thursday.

Icra also said the outlook on the Indian aviation industry is stable amid the continued recovery in domestic and international air passenger traffic with a relatively stable cost environment and expectations of the trend continuing in FY2025.

The airlines' capacity deployment in the previous month increased 6 per cent year-on-year and about 2 per cent higher than April 2024, it added.

According to the agency, the domestic air passenger traffic for FY24 was around 154 million, with a year-on-year growth of around 13 per cent.

It thus surpassed the pre-COVID levels of around 142 million in FY2020, the ratings agency said, adding that the international passenger traffic for Indian carriers stood at around 29.68 million last fiscal, registering a year-on-year growth of around 24 per cent.

Moreover, the industry witnessed improved pricing power, reflected in the higher yields (over pre-Covid levels), it said.

The momentum in air passenger traffic witnessed in FY2024 is expected to continue into FY2025. However, further expansion in yields from the current levels may be limited, it added.

Average ATF price stood at Rs 103,499/KL in FY2024, 14 per cent lower than Rs 121,013/KL in FY2023 but significantly higher by 58 per cent than the pre-Covid levels of Rs 65,368/KL in FY2020, according to Icra.

In Q1 FY2025, the average ATF price remained higher by 5.4 per cent on a year-on-year basis. In June 2024, it declined by 6.5 per cent sequentially, the agency said.

Fuel cost accounts for around 30-40 per cent of airlines' expenses.

Around 45-60 per cent of the operating expenses, including aircraft lease payments, fuel expenses and a significant portion of aircraft and engine maintenance expenses, are denominated in dollar terms.

Some airlines have foreign currency debt. While domestic airlines have a partial natural hedge to the extent of their earnings from international operations, overall, their net payables are in foreign currency, it said, adding that the airlines' efforts to ensure fare hikes, proportionate to their input cost increases, will be the key to expanding their profitability margins.

The pace of recovery in industry earnings is likely to be gradual owing to the high fixed-cost nature of the business, the agency noted.

The industry reported a net loss of around Rs 170-175 billion in FY2023 due to elevated ATF prices, along with the depreciation of the rupee against the US dollar, it added.

Icra expects the Indian aviation industry to report a similar net loss of around Rs 30-40 billion in FY2025 as seen in FY2024, which is significantly lower from levels of around Rs 170-175 billion in FY2023, as airlines continue to witness healthy passenger traffic growth and maintain pricing discipline.

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