New Delhi: India’s air passenger traffic grew 4.43% in 2013 , reversing the decline of the previous year that also marked the grounding of Kingfisher Airlines Ltd.
India’s scheduled airlines carried 61.42 million passengers in 2013, compared with 58.81 million in 2012 and 60.66 million in 2011, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). “It’s not a big deal because the base of 2012 was lower; but looking at the overall scenario, it’s not negative either,” said an airline official who declined to be named.
Indian airlines suffered both rising fuel prices and a sharp depreciation of the rupee last year in an already slowing economy. The rupee has stabilized after it touched an all-time low of 68.15 to the dollar in September to around 61.50 on Tuesday.
Air traffic in India grew at 20-40% for six years starting 2003, when low-fare airline Air Deccan was launched, making it possible for more people to travel by air. Many other low-fare airlines were subsequently launched, breaking the monopoly of state-run Air India, Jet Airways (India) Ltd and Air Sahara.
“The passenger base has increased now. As volume increases, you can’t have growth of 30-40% on a 60-70 million base,” the airline official said.
DGCA, in its report released on Tuesday, said 5.58 million passengers travelled by air in December, 3.37% more than in the same month last year.
A total of 747 passenger complaints were received by domestic airlines during the month.
“With a total score of 82.2% of flights on time, SpiceJet was at the top of the list on the parameter of on-time performance for December 2013,” SpiceJet said in a statement. On-time performance of scheduled domestic airlines is computed by DGCA for six metro airports—Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai.
DGCA did not disclose the market shares of the airlines in December or all of 2013.
IndiGo had a 27% market share in December 2012, while Jet and its low-fare subsidiary Jetlite combined were at second spot with a 25.6% share, followed by Air India Ltd’s 20.6% share.
Despite the improved passenger traffic, airlines continue to struggle in tough operating conditions, a consulting firm said recently. “The operating environment remains very challenging as airlines continue to face the dual challenge of a hostile cost environment and soft yields. And the market environment encourages loss‐leader pricing during low seasons, simply to generate cash,” the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation said in a report this month.
“With huge debt and interest burdens, capital remains scarce and investor interest in incumbent carriers is weak, especially as any funding would mostly pay off losses rather than deliver growth... The fact that several carriers are turning to travel agents to provide short-term financing at what is effectively a very high interest rate is a worrying sign and indicative of the extent of their difficulties,” it added.