Air passenger traffic, which had witnessed negative growth in the country over the last one year in the wake of the global financial crisis, was showing signs of recovery over the past couple of months, Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said here on Saturday.

"There has been a marginal recovery over the past one or two months and we are cautiously optimistic (of a recovery from the negative growth) as it depends on various factors," Mr.Patel said in an informal chat with The Hindu here.

Mr.Patel, who was on a private visit to Thirunallaru, made a brief stop over at Tiruchi en route New Delhi and inspected the newly built terminal building of the airport here.

Answering a query, Mr.Patel said development of the 35 non-metros was going ahead as scheduled. The Airports Authority of India has been investing heavily over the last few years to strengthen the aviation infrastructure. It was not just the 35 non metro airports; several other airports were also being developed and upgraded.

On the proposed green field airport at Sriperumbudur, Mr.Patel observed that it was for the future. The AAI was investing over Rs.2,500 crores on the upgradation and modernisation of the Chennai Airport now, he said and added that the project would be completed in two years.

Answering a query on when the bail out package for Air India would come through, the Minister said the processes has to be gone through and the government had, in principle, agreed to it.

Mr.Patel was briefed by the Airport officials, including S.Dharmaraj,Airport Controller, and T.H.Radhakrishnan, Station Manager, National Aviation Company Limited, on the development works at the airport. He was told that Tiruchi Airport had recorded an increase in passenger traffic against the national trend. The Minister was informed by the officials that a survey would begin soon on the lands to be acquired for the next phase of expansion of the airport. About 439 acres of land has been sought by the AAI for the purpose.