Fact Check: More People Travelling in Airplanes Than in AC Trains?

A fact-check of the claims made by the NDA government’s portal about expansion of the Indian aviation industry.

4 min read
Fact Check: More People Travelling in Airplanes Than in AC Trains?

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One of the infographics on the government’s 48-month portal makes certain claims about the expansion of the aviation sector under the NDA government in the past four years. Let’s verify each of these claims. The following claims were made in the infographic:

  1. India is now the third largest aviation market
  2. Passenger traffic growth is in the range of 18-20% over the past three years
  3. More people have travelled in airplanes than in AC trains for the first time
  4. Domestic air passengers crossed 100 million in 2017
  5. A National Civil Aviation Policy was unveiled in 2016

Claim 1: India Is Now the Third Largest Aviation Market

The “largest aviation market” is defined as largest traffic to, from and within a country as per the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the premier trade association of the airlines.


According to Centre for Aviation (CAPA), as of April 2018, the top five largest domestic aviation markets are the United States, China, India, Japan and Indonesia. Although India is the world’s third largest domestic aviation market, it is not the third largest aviation market. According to IATA, India is projected to be in the top three largest aviation markets surpassing UK by 2025.

Claim Check: Thus, it is the third largest domestic aviation market and not the world’s third largest aviation market. Hence the first claim is only PARTIALLY TRUE.     

Claim 2: Passenger Traffic Growth Is in the Range of 18-20% Over the Past Three Years

As per domestic traffic reports from 2014 to 2018, released by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), a table with the number of passengers carried during that period by domestic airlines has been compiled. The numbers are cumulative and so the value for the month of March is the number of people who have flown domestically between January and March of that year. All figures are in lakhs.

The annual passenger traffic growth has been calculated by using the domestic passengers’ data for each calendar year. This shows the percentage increase in passenger traffic from one year to the next at the end of the year. We find that for the past three years, passenger air traffic has been growing at an average of 20% and is in the range of 17-23%.

Claim Check: Thus, the second claim that passenger traffic growth has been between 18-20% is MOSTLY TRUE.

Claim 3: More People Have Travelled in Airplanes Than in Ac Trains for the First Time

To verify the claim about the number of people travelling by air being greater than those travelling by AC train, the passenger data provided in the annual reports of the DGCA were compared with data provided in the statistical statements of the Indian Railways.

The Indian Railways publishes an annual document titled ‘Statistical Statements that gives a break-up of the number of passengers that were carried in that year by the class in which they travelled. This data was aggregated to find the number of people who travelled by AC class in trains between 2012-13 and 2016-17.

Total passenger traffic of the AC class is calculated by including the traffic in AC First Class, AC Sleeper Class, AC 3 Tier & AC Chair Car. Total passenger traffic of Airlines is calculated by including both domestic & international passenger traffic.

Claim Check: We find that for the first time in 2016-17, unlike the previous years, the number of people who travelled by Airplane is higher than those who travelled in all AC class of trains. Thus, the third claim is also TRUE.

Claim 4: Domestic Air Passengers Crossed 100 Million in 2017

As noted earlier, the data from DGCA indicates that, in 2017, the number of passengers carried by domestic airlines was 1171.76 lakh, or over 117 million.

Claim Check: Thus, the fourth claim is also TRUE.

Claim 5: A National Civil Aviation Policy Was Unveiled in 2016 to Transform the Sector

In 2016, the National Civil Aviation Policy was unveiled, which aimed to expand the aviation sector and reduce the cost of air travel in order to make it more popular. It outlines specific goals such as to enable 30 crore domestic ticketing by 2022 and 50 crore by 2027. Though the previous UPA government did not have an exclusive civil aviation policy, the civil aviation targets were part of the 12th Five Year plan documents.

Claim Check: While it is true that the National Civil Aviation Policy was unveiled in 2016, it is not clear what the government meant by transformation of the sector. Hence this claim could not be fact checked.

(This was first published on Factly and has been republished with permission.)

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Topics:  Narendra Modi   India   Airlines 

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