The two aviation strikes in September point to a simple truth: India has too many planes on the tarmac and in the skies.
The strike by Jet Airways pilots in the earlier part of the month ensured that one-fifth of the aviation industry’s capacity was grounded. The strike by Air India pilots later in the month effectively shut down one-fifth of domestic capacity again.
Expectedly, flight schedules were dislocated and fliers had to hurriedly shop for options. Through both these episodes, however, few were stranded at airports. Most did manage to get tickets on some other airline. There was no overall shortage of seats.
This means that India has far more seat capacity than current demand. Part of this is a result of long-term strategic planning, as airline companies added capacity to meet galloping demand. But another part comes from the irrational exuberance during the boom, coupled with cheap finance and hopes of quick fortunes through equity sales to private equity, institutional and retail investors.
Bailouts are not the answer.