A man sits in a lounge inside the newly built Terminal 2 of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Passenger Growth Slowest In 20 Quarters As Airlines Ground Flights

The number of passengers flying in domestic carriers grew at its slowest pace in 20 quarters as Jet Airways (India) Ltd. and SpiceJet Ltd. were forced to ground flights, for different reasons.

The passenger growth in the world’s fastest-growing aviation market stood at 4.9 percent in the three months ended March, the slowest pace in five years, according to data compiled by BloombergQuint from the website of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. That’s mainly because Jet Airways (India) Ltd. and SpiceJet Ltd. grounded as many as 50 aircraft during the period.

Debt-laden Jet Airways was forced to ground planes as it struggled to repay its lessors. The aviation regulator, on the other hand, grounded SpiceJet’s Boeing 737 Max aircraft after Ethiopian Airlines’ plane crashed due to faulty sensors.

Among major airlines, close to 1.15 crore passengers took to the skies in IndiGo, AirAsia, Vistara and GoAir in March, the DGCA data showed.

Here’s the passenger growth rate of major airlines in March:

  • IndiGo: 19 percent
  • AirAsia: 31 percent.
  • Vistara: 11 percent.
  • GoAir: 10.5 percent.
  • SpiceJet: 7.3 percent
  • Air India’s passenger growth rate contracted 2 percent.

Passenger growth of Jet Group, which recently shut its operations due to lack of funds, plunged 65 percent. The airline’s domestic market share, too, fell to its lowest at 5.8 percent.

Passenger load factor—a measure of capacity utilisation—declined for all major airlines compared to last year because of slower passenger growth.

Seat occupancy for SpiceJet declined for the tenth straight month in March. Yet, the nation’s second-largest airline managed to report load factor at more than 90 percent for the 47th consecutive month. IndiGo—the low-cost carrier operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd.—also witnessed a drop in its percentage of seats filled for the eighth quarter in a row.

Here’s a look at the passenger load factor of major airlines in March:

  • IndiGo declined 300 basis points to 86 percent.
  • SpiceJet fell 200 basis points to 93 percent.
  • Air India down 280 basis points to 80.8 percent.
  • GoAir improved 340 basis points to 91.4 percent.
  • Air Asia rose 550 basis points to 87.5 percent.
  • Vistara fell 140 basis points to 86.8 percent.

IndiGo Gets Bigger

The market share of India’s largest airline rose to its highest ever at 46.9 percent in March at the cost of its peers—Jet Airways and SpiceJet.

IndiGo benefitted from India’s move to ground the Boeing 737 Max 8 planes given its large market share and no Boeing aircraft in its fleet. The low-cost carrier, which widely uses Airbus A320Neo and A320Ceo aircraft, earlier had a market share of 43 percent in the domestic aviation industry.