With business back, fight for airlines’ on-time performance heats up | The Financial Express

With business back, fight for airlines’ on-time performance heats up

The September shakeup in OTP rankings is largely a result of the significant improvement in AI’s performance

With business back, fight for airlines’ on-time performance heats up
Manpower and fleet issues were plaguing the airline between April and June

What are the chances of your domestic flight being on time? Well, if you flew any of the airlines from the Tata group from the country’s four busiest airports in September, the chances were high. There has been a shakeup in the on-time performance (OTP) pecking order, and as per data provided by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), more than 9 in 10 flights of Vistara, a Tata-Singapore Airlines joint venture, departed on time from the Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad airports.

Then, 87% of Air India flights were on time and the OTP for AirAsia India was nearly 89%. IndiGo was fourth with 84.1% flights on time in September. IndiGo is India’s largest airline by passengers and has traditionally been the most punctual operator. But in the last few months, it has lagged behind competitors in OTP.

At least every third flight of GoFirst and Alliance Air was delayed in September, while for SpiceJet at least every fifth flight was delayed. Overall, more than a 100,000 domestic passengers were affected by flight delays which stretched beyond two hours in September. Another about 17,000 flyers faced flight cancellations.

Also Read: AirAsia sells remaining stake in AirAsia India to Air India

Meanwhile, the September shakeup in OTP rankings is largely a result of the significant improvement in AI’s performance. Air India CEO Campbell Wilson had said earlier that since January this year, after the airline had been acquired by the Tata group, OTP monitoring is being done under his direct supervision through an operations control centre. He has also underlined the link between a financial turnaround of the loss-laden AI and improvement in its operational parameters, including on-time performance.

“The operations control gives you a window into the rest of the organisation and allows you to allocate resources, capital and expertise to attack the many problems that underpin poor punctuality because there are many problems – whether its aircraft health, whether its use of systems, whether its knowledge, whether its preventative planning, whether it is the block times…We have progressively improved OTP,” Campbell had said.

A reputation for on-time arrival is critical for any airline since this builds passenger trust and thus helps increase aircraft loads (the number of occupied seats on an aircraft). It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that OTP is the key metric towards a path of profitability.

An official at a budget airline said that it was easier for full-service competitors to demonstrate higher OTP rankings since they operate fewer flights. “The scale at which an IndiGo, for example, operates is quite different from that of AI or Vistara. IndiGo operates nearly 1,600 flights a day. This means several factors come into play – operations from multiple terminals of busy airports, efficient handling of a large number of flights and crew, lower aircraft turnaround times than full service airlines etc,” the official said.

Typically, a full-service airline has about 50 minutes to get an incoming aircraft ready for the next flight against just about 30-35 minutes in the case of an LCC. Quicker aircraft turnaround helps budget airlines in increasing aircraft utilisation and thus increasing revenues.

IndiGo, which has always promised on-time service, has been struggling with OTP issues for some months now. In July, for example, as passengers had begun flocking to the airports after the Covid-19 lull and the domestic aviation business appeared to be picking up steam, nearly every fifth flight of IndiGo was delayed.

The OTP metric that month was 80.8% at the four busiest airports, lagging every other scheduled domestic airline except Alliance Air. Not surprisingly, angry flyers had taken to social media to complain about missed connections and delays.

Between April and July, in fact, Vistara had consistently beaten IndiGo on OTP. Manpower and fleet issues were plaguing the airline at that time. But since then, IndiGo has taken several measures to improve OTP month-on-month. For example, it has started a three-point disembarkation system to cut down delays and officials seem confident that it will soon regain the number one spot in OTP rankings. Another industry official said that to get a better picture of how punctual airlines really are, the DGCA should also gather data from smaller and other metro airports besides the four busiest.

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.

First published on: 03-11-2022 at 02:30 IST