Indian airlines offer nearly half the number of seats compared to their foreign counterparts for travel to and from the country. As per data compiled by the ministry of civil aviation, Indian carriers Air India, Jet Airways, IndiGo and SpiceJet fly 2,42,365 seats every week as against 4,32,456 seats flown by their foreign peers. Capacity utilisation of allotted air traffic rights by Indian airlines stands at 57 per cent of 4,21,524 seats allotted per week.
Given the poor utilisation, the aviation ministry has decided to take back unused overseas flying rights and allot them to airlines with firm plans. The ministry is also working on a proposal to replace the ‘5/20 rule’ (Indian airlines require 5 years of operational experience and a fleet of 20 aircraft to start global services) and permit newer airlines such as Vistara and AirAsia India to fly international. This, officials say, will enhance competition and ensure optimum utilisation of bilateral rights available with domestic carriers.
A senior official in the aviation ministry said, “On most international routes, capacity utilisation of Indian carriers range between 30-40 per cent. We are reviewing bilaterals rights allocated to different airlines. Those not utilising it would have to surrender them as we do not want our own airlines to lose out traffic share to foreign carriers.”
In as many as 44 countries, foreign carriers deploy and utilise more capacity than Indian carriers. In the winter schedule of 2014-15, airlines from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka flew 68,248 additional seats per week over their Indian counterparts. Capacity utilisation of Indian airlines to these countries stood at 46.6 per cent of total allocated seats of 76,514 seats every week.
In the same period, West Asian carriers from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Qatar flew 47,992 seats more than their Indian counterparts. India’s traffic rights utilisation to these countries was around 67 per cent of total allocations of 1,30,427 seats per week.
It is not only in south-east Asia and West Asia that Indian airlines have lagged in usage of bilateral traffic rights, in Europe too carriers from France (6,374 seats), Germany (14,375 seats) and Netherlands (5,075 seats) have incremental capacity utilisation of over 5,000 seats every week.
India does not even have flights to 21 countries of these 44 countries despite some of these countries depicting significant traffic potential.
It is only in nine countries that India has been able to utilise more capacity than their foreign peers. That too, because in five of these places the foreign partner has not yet started services to and from India. It is only in four countries — Nepal, Maldives, Saudi Arabia and the US — that India has an edge over competing foreign carriers in two-way operations.