From cut-rate fares to empty seats, high-flying airlines have come down to earth. In the festive season run-up to Diwali, one out of three seats on domestic flights was lying vacant compared to full capacity flights a year ago.
According to official air traffic data released on Wednesday, the average load factor of all domestic airlines during the month was 65 per cent, a figure low enough to raise concerns in the industry that ran up big loans to order jets to meet surging demand.
“We are caught between high operating costs and low passenger volumes affecting both our topline as well as bottomline,” said the CEO of a low cost carrier, who did not wish to be identified.
In October this year, state-run Air India and Kingfisher Airlines had one of the poorest load factors (capacity) of 59 per cent and 58 per cent respectively. Jet Airways and its low cost arm JetLite had load factors of 64.5 per cent and 68.9 per cent, while Air Deccan, now in Kingfisher’s fold, had 62 per cent.
Delhi-based SpiceJet was flying at 61.7 per cent, while in peers in the low cost space — Go Air and Indigo had a load factor of 64 per cent and 66 per cent respectively. Paramount Airways, an air line operating largely in South India, had a load factor of 69.2 per cent.
However, there was a 16 per cent growth in total passengers carried, with all airlines between them carrying 31.33 lakh passengers as compared with 26.76 lakh passengers in September.
Jet Airways and its low cost arm Jet Lite continue to dominate the Indian skies with a combined market share of 27.8 per cent, although the Kingfisher Airlines—Deccan combine is slowly closing in with a 27.5 per cent share.