The Air India Board has approved the annual accounts for 2008-09, which showed a post-tax loss of Rs.5,548.26 crore.

An official release said the accounts were considered by the Board here on Wednesday in the background of the global economic meltdown that resulted in fewer passengers and falling yields.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) had predicted that the aviation industry would lose $16.8 billion in 2008 and $11 billion in 2009 owing to weak revenue and an increase in operating costs.

Reflecting the market trend, Air India's total revenue dipped from Rs.15,252 crore during 2007-08 to Rs.13,479 crore in 2008-09 owing to the global recession and the fall in load factors and passenger yields.

The passenger load factor declined from 63.8 per cent in 2007-08 to 59.5 per cent in 2008-09. The number of passengers declined from 13.21 million in 2007-08 to 10.36 million in 2008-09, the release said.

The other significant factors that contributed to the loss were a substantial increase in the fuel cost during 2008-09 when the prices of aviation turbine fuel touched a record $147 a barrel; increase in depreciation costs due to the induction of new fleet; increase in interest on aircraft loans and borrowings and the loss of foreign exchange due to the depreciation of the rupee.

During the past one year, the company had taken steps to increase revenue and cut cost.

These included restructuring/withdrawal of some loss-making routes, return of leased aircraft, rationalisation of wage structure, aggressive sales and marketing initiatives to improve yields and load factors, phasing out of old fleet and induction of new aircraft on various domestic and international routes and leveraging its potential in engineering and cargo for enhanced revenue.

These measures, together with the increase in demand, are likely to improve the performance for 2009-10, if the fuel prices ruled stable during the rest of the year, the release said.

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