March air traffic growth slowest in 5 yrs; groundings, flight cancellations to blame

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New Delhi | Published: April 23, 2019 4:38:43 AM

The overall market share held by low-cost carriers stood at 78%, the highest ever on the back of Jet crisis.

aviation sector, aviation industry, jet airways, jet airways crisis,spicejet, indigoThe passenger count remained flat with 11.59 million passengers flown by domestic airlines last month compared with 11.58 million carried during March 2018.

Domestic air traffic growth grew a mere 0.14% year-on-year in March — its slowest in at least five years — owing to big-time grounding of aircraft by Jet Airways and also some by SpiceJet along with cancellation of flights by IndiGo owing to pilot shortage.

The passenger count remained flat with 11.59 million passengers flown by domestic airlines last month compared with 11.58 million carried during March 2018, according to the monthly passenger data released by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday.

Cash-strapped Jet Airways, which announced temporary suspension of all operations on April 17, grounded several aircraft last month owing to non-payment of lease rentals, while SpiceJet was forced to pull down 12 Boeing 737 MAX planes from its fleet over safety concerns on March 12.

IndiGo’s operations were hampered with shortage of pilots as it cancelled more than 30 daily flights throughout the month.

More than 2.35 lakh passengers who had booked SpiceJet flights were affected due to cancellations while termination of flights by Jet hit 26,135 travellers. Cancellations at IndiGo affected 3,211 passengers during March 2019.

Experts pointed out that the increase in airfares due to flight cancellations and runway repair work at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport also pulled the traffic growth down in March. According to a Crisil Research report, airfares had risen 10-12% in the March quarter compared with the same period last year.

In terms of market share, budget carrier IndiGo strengthened its control in the domestic skies, reporting its highest-ever share at 46.9%, a 7.4 percentage points jump vis-a-vis March last year. Jet, which was the second-largest domestic carrier till January 2019, held just 5.8% share.

SpiceJet, GoAir, AirAsia and Vistara also gained marginal hold over the market at the expense of Jet. While SpiceJet increased its market share to 13.6% in March 2019 from 12.7% exactly a year ago, Wadia group-owned GoAir witnessed a jump from 9% to 9.9%, while Tata group joint ventures AirAsia and Vistara gained share to 5.9% and 4.2% from 4.5% and 3.8%, respectively. National carrier Air India’s market share was down from 13.4% to 13.1% last month.

Also read: Anil Ambani group stocks tumble after Brickwork Ratings, CARE rating downgrade Reliance Capital

The overall market share held by low-cost carriers stood at 78%, the highest ever on the back of Jet crisis.

In terms of passenger load factor, all major carriers except AirAsia and GoAir reported a drop in seat occupancy of their aircraft. IndiGo, SpiceJet, Air India, Vistara and Jet witnessed a decline between 0.1 and 3 percentage points in PLF.

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