Rohit Joshi and Ajay Vaishnav / ZRG
A day after aviation minister Ajit Singh gave some relief to airline operators by scrapping airport development fee at Delhi and Mumbai airports come January 2013, the declining numbers of air passengers in September coming out from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) point that more systemic reforms are needed to revive the country’s civil aviation sector.
Domestic airlines carried 438.39 lakh passengers in January to September this year, a decline of nearly a per cent compared with the same period last year. Last year, it stood at 442.18 lakhs during the corresponding period of the previous year. During September, the total domestic passengers carried by domestic airlines stood at 40.18 lakhs, a decline of 8 percent over August.
According to the DGCA, for the third consecutive month, the low-cost airline IndiGo carried the maximum number of domestic passengers at 10.94 lakh. Its market share stands at 27.2 percent even as the airline registered a decline of 0.4 percent in a quarter traditionally considered to be lean for airlines. Following IndiGo is Jet Airways (including its low-cost arm Jet Lite) with 23.8 percent, further registering a decline of 1.4 percent. The erstwhile sector leader flew 9.58 lakh passengers.
Air India at third spot, on the other hand, posted an improvement of 1.1 percent over August with 19.3 percent of market share in September and carried 7.75 lakh passengers. Closely following the Maharaja is SpiceJet at fourth with 7.43 lakh passengers and enjoying a market share of 18.5 percent. In addition, GoAir carried 3.07 lakh passengers and Kingfisher 1.41 lakh. In percentage terms, Go Air and Kingfisher Airlines enjoy 7.6 and 3.5 percent of the market share respectively.
But the key question here is whether Indigo would be able to sustain itself at this level. And, what this means for the erstwhile longtime number one market share airline? Explaining Indigo’s leadership position in domestic skies, Kapil Kaul, CEO of Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, South Asia, stressed, “Indigo is expanding and their load factors are high so it’s on the expected lines. On the other hand, Jet Airways is not expanding in the domestic market and in the off season their load factors are lesser than Indigo.”
Kaul, however, is optimistic that overall the good times for the sector will return sooner than later.
“Q2FY13 is the weakest quarter for aviation sector. The third quarter will pan out much better for airlines,” he says.