Aircraft operated by Jet Airways India Ltd., foreground, and IndiGo, a unit of Interglobe Enterprises Ltd., are seen from a control tower at Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) in Delhi (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Indian Carriers Fly Most Empty Seats In 19 Months

Seat occupancy of airlines in the world’s fastest-growing aviation market fell to its lowest in 19 months because of excess supply and a delayed festival season.

The average passenger load factor—the percentage of seats filled—fell to 83 percent in October, according to data released by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. That’s the lowest since March 2017.

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SpiceJet, the airline with least empty seats, saw its capacity utilisation drop 290 basis points year-on-year—the biggest fall in 56 months. For India’s largest airline, IndiGo, passenger load factor dropped the most in 28 months on the back of large-scale capacity addition. InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., its parent, increased capacity by 30 percent—nearly twice the industry’s addition.

Passenger Growth Wanes

Passenger growth also slowed to 13 percent, the slowest pace in 15 months, as the festival season travel was delayed because Diwali this year fell in November. Still, close to 12 million passengers flew in domestic airlines.

Among the large players, IndiGo’s passenger growth was the highest at 23 percent. The number of passengers ferried by its rivals rose at a modest lower pace.

  • Air India’s passenger growth was 3.95 percent—the slowest in 15 months.
  • Jet Airways’ ferried 1.8 percent fewer fliers—it’s worst performance in 23 months.
  • SpiceJet’s passenger growth fell to the slowest in 36 months to 1.2 percent.

Jet Loses Market Share

Indigo’s market share remained stable at 43 percent, while that of cash-starved Jet Group fell to its lowest of 14.8 percent. The Naresh Goyal-led airline has been struggling to maintain its domestic market share, ceding more than 10 percentage points to low-cost rivals since its peak of 25.4 percent in March.

Jet Airways Ltd.’s also lost international market share to India’s No. 1 low-cost carrier IndiGo because of slower capacity addition. IndiGo, which increased capacity by more than a third, saw its share grow to 18 percent on international routes flown by Indian companies. The share of state-owned Air India in overseas routes also dropped.

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