October 14, 2008

High Fuel Cost, Meltdown Hit Passenger Traffic


Mumbai: The meltdown in the US economy, along with the rise in air turbine fuel (ATF) prices, has started to show its impact on passenger traffic at the Mumbai airport.

Statistics procured from the Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd (MIAL)-starting May 2008-show a steady decline in both the domestic and international sectors.

The growth rate for the domestic sector has shot down phenomenally from a positive 5.4% in May to -22 % in September. In the international sector , the growth rate has rattled down to 5.6% in September from 9.5% in May. Airport officials feel that the slump is likely to persist for at least nine months , if not more.

"In these circumstances, we need to operate more efficiently," said airport director Philip Cash. "It is the contraction in the US passenger sector that is hitting us the most. This section of passengers is the one that generates revenue for us," he added.

According to MIAL figures, the domestic sector got the first blow in June itself, when passenger traffic dropped to -6 .5%. Since then, the negative trend has continued. While international passenger traffic has managed to maintain a positive growth rate, its decline from June has been marked. "International traffic has been well below the projected growth rate of 10.6%," said Cash.

The drop in the international sector has been exceptionally steep when compared to the figures in September last year. While it rested at 16% in September 2007, this year it has fallen to 5.6%. In terms of aircraft movement, this sector has seen a rise of 8% over last year.

Airport officials as well as airlines are pinning their hopes on the festive season. With Diwali round the corner and Christmas following shortly, observers feel the situation can be salvaged . "The performance during this period will indicate how well we can sail through the current situation," said Cash.

'Price respite a far cry'

"Oil price will never be US$50 per barrel like it was before. We will be lucky if it comes down to US$75," said Air Marshal S S Ramdas, aviation expert, speaking at the 104th birth anniversary celebrations of JRD Tata. "Some respite might be possible only if air turbine fuel is shifted to the declared goods category," he added. Experts also saw the availability of space as a major hurdle for infrastructural expansion in Mumbai. "The concept of parallel runway is not possible in Mumbai," said airport director Philip Cash. TNN

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