Grounded flights hit pax as growth enters single-digit at 5.6% in Feb

Chennai: Domestic air passenger growth lost the high double-digit momentum that kept it going strong, with a growth of 5.62 per cent in February, which is a 53-month low.

According to the DGCA data, airlines are flying 11.34 million passengers compared to 10.74 million, earlier. The data was release on Wednesday.

The last time such a low growth was reported in July 2014 when incremental traffic grew 7.19 per cent, while in August 2014 the same was at eight per cent.

Since September 2014 the market has been clipping at double-digits which lasted till December 2018. Come January 2019, the growth rate slipped to 9.1 per cent.

Significantly, almost all major carriers operated a truncated schedule, mostly led by the crippled Jet Airways and budget carrier Indigo which had to cancel hundreds of flights in the month due to a host of reasons.

These include cash-crunch, pilots shortages, NOTAMs (notice to airmen) at various airports and a reduced capacity due to grounding of some planes, among others.

Indigo retained its top position with a market share of 43.4 per cent, carrying 4.93 million passengers in February, while the cash-strapped Jet along with its subsidiary Jetlite slipped to a distant fourth position carrying 1.28 million passengers and had a combined market share of 11.4 per cent.

Both Spicejet and national carrier Air India flew more passengers than Jet at 1.55 million and 1.45 million, and had market share of 13.7 per cent and 12.8 per cent, respectively.

Another budget carrier Goair, which garnered nine per cent market share with 1.02 million passengers, continued to outperform on punctuality from the four major airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, recording an average 86.3 per cent followed by Vistara at 81.6 per cent in the month.

However, Indigo, slipped to fifth position in OTP (on-time performance) at 76.2 per cent during the month, while Spicejet’s retained its leadership in average seat occupancy at 94 per cent.

The passenger load factor or seat occupancy has shown increasing trend primarily due to airlines offering promotional fares resulting in increased demand, DGCA said. Air India topped the list of flight cancellations with 8.15 per cent, followed by AirAsia India and Jet at 2.4, and 2.31 per cent, respectively.

Jet pilots look to board SpiceJet
The harried pilots of Jet Airways, which is on the brink of shuttering operations, have now approached SpiceJet seeking employment.

Jet Airways pilots had earlier been wooed by IndiGo with compensation for their pending salaries and other benefits, leading to murmurs of protests from its own pilots.

The largest airline has been facing acute shortage of cockpit crew, leading to cancellation of hundreds of its flights last month.

Jet pilots along with engineers and senior management have not been paid for more than three months now as the airline is facing its worst existential crisis since its inception a quarter of a century ago.

The Gurugram-based SpiceJet, which has all its 12 Boeing Max planes grounded following the crash of an Ethiopian Airline plane early this month, is looking to hire pilots for its expansion plans, and has also conducted walk-in interviews on Wednesday.

NT Bureau