Air traffic growth slows to 18-month low as fares rise

Air passenger traffic grew 14.9% to 9 million passengers during the month, as against 7.8 million a year ago, according to data released by the DGCA


Air traffic growth has remained around 20% in the past two and half years. Photo: Mint
Air traffic growth has remained around 20% in the past two and half years. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: Higher fares slowed air passenger traffic growth to an 18-month low in March, typically a lean month for air travel.

Passenger traffic grew 14.9% to 9 million passengers during the month, as against 7.8 million a year ago, according to data released by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Thursday.

Air traffic growth has remained around 20% in the past two and half years. The last time it fell below 15% was in September 2015, when it grew 14.56%. Despite a significant increase in capacity, airlines have been flying with high occupancy. This presented an opportunity to charge higher.

“Why lose the opportunity to get higher fares?” an airline executive said, declining to be named. Fares have been raised gradually over the past few weeks, the executive added.

Cheaper fares increase discretionary travel, which gets curtailed when fares rise.

In March, SpiceJet flew its planes 91.4% full, AirAsia 87.8%, GoAir 84.8%,Vistara 82.2%, IndiGo 81.6%, Jet Airways 79.8% and Air India 74.6%.

Flights between metros were fairly on time. IndiGo regained its top spot in terms of on-time performance after many months. Its flights in four metros were 88% on time, displacing previous No. 1 SpiceJet, which came in at 85.7%. Vistara (85.1%), GoAir (81.8%), Jet Airways (80.7%) and Air India (79.7%) followed.

Regional airline Air Carnival flew 64.8% full, Zoom Air 74.6% and TruJet 75%. Air Costa did not operate, as its planes were impounded by aircraft lessors GE Capital Aviation Services over non-payment of dues.

Airlines’ market share remained mostly consistent. IndiGo’s domestic market share was 39.9%, followed by Jet (17.9%), SpiceJet (13.2%), Air India (13%), GoAir (8.9%), Vistara (3.2%) and AirAsia India (3.1%). To be sure, Air India and Jet Airways have significant international operations, while the other airlines mostly fly domestic.

The number of complaints against airlines fell from the month of February. There were a total of 680 complaints that DGCA received in March, compared with February’s 810. Of these, 242 were against Air India, 213 against Jet Airways, 90 against IndiGo.

SpiceJet had 58 complaints, GoAir 55, AirAsia 16, TruJet and Vistara had three each.

April-June is considered the peak season for air travel in India as schools shut for summer vacations.

“Airfares will rise; you will see strong yields in this quarter from 15 April to June-end,” the airline official cited above said, “Once a customer become accustomed to pay less, he will never pay more.”

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