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However, because of the increasing oil prices, the growth this fiscal is expected to be around 17.5 per cent. "Our country has witnessed the highest domestic passenger growth globally in the last 3-4 years and the nearest rival is some 30-40 per cent behind us. We have been growing over 20 per cent in the last 3 three years. This year we are growing around 17.5 per cent because the fuel prices have gone up," Choubey said. He, however, said that if oil prices remain below USD 80 per barrel, the travel demand is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15 per cent over the next 20 years. The government's regional air connectivity scheme Udan has further boosted traffic growth in the country, Choubey said adding that as many as 56 new airports have been added into the network in the last two years. Besides, many more airports are expected to be operational in the next six to eight months as by that time the second phase of Udan will also take off, he added. Udan or Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagarik scheme launched by the central government last year is aimed at connecting unserved and under served airports in the country and the fares under it have been capped at Rs 2,500 for a one hour journey. About three-and-a-half years ago, the total number of aircraft in the country operated by the scheduled airlines was 395, and they have placed orders for 900-odd aircraft, Choubey said. "The challenge is we need to double the capacity of our airports every five years to sustain the additional passenger footfall," he said while urging the airlines to deploy more wide-bodied aircraft such as Airbus A380 to meet the increasing demand and deal with the issue of slots at various airports. The civil aviation secretary also urged the state governments to bring down VAT on jet fuel prices, which accounts for 45-50 per cent of an airline's total operating cost. Responding to Choubey's call, Telangana IT Minister KT Rama Rao, who was also present on the occasion along with director general of civil aviation B S Bhullar, said that his government will look into the issue.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)