Air India has operated far less number of domestic and international flights last year than its private competitors, with official figures showing that its market share has dwindled to 17.1 per cent.
Air India currently stands at the fourth position in terms of market share, after its private competitors Jet Airways, Kingfisher and IndiGo.
These figures collated by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) came against the backdrop of allegations by unions that profitable routes of Air India have been given away to the benefit of private and foreign competitors.
This has also been pointed out by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture and the Committee on Public Undertakings last year, with both observing that Air India had been put at a disadvantage against private airlines on various counts, including its declining route network.
Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi, during his meetings with the unions in Mumbai last week, had assured them that he would look into the issue and take necessary measures.
While all Indian carriers jointly operated a total of 5,25,504 flights on the domestic network during 2010, Jet Airways and its subsidiary JetLite flew 1,42,101 flights and Kingfisher Airlines operated 1,20,362 flights, leaving AI at the third spot with only 1,01,352 flights, the DGCA figures showed.
Sources pointed out that there were at least 32 "profitable routes" from which the Air India withdrew its flights since late 2009 giving a distinct advantage to competitors, both domestic and overseas. Most of the foreign routes were on the lucrative Gulf sector.
The routes on which the flights have either been withdrawn completely or temporarily were maintaining an average load factor of 80 per cent for Air India, and some even clocking 100 per cent, these sources claimed.
Soon after Air India opted out of these routes, private carriers started operating on them, they alleged.
Of these 32 routes from which the national carrier withdrew its services in over a year, Jet Airways was operating on 11 routes and Kingfisher on six, they said, adding IndiGo and SpiceJet had also launched services to these destinations.
Other airlines which are operating flights on these sectors include Emirates, Etihad, Air Arabia, Qatar Airways, Oman Air and Bahrain Air.
While routes like Cochin-Doha, Cochin-Muscat and Cochin-Bahrain are now being operated by Jet Airways, Bangalore-Pune -Goa-Bangalore and Chennai-Coimbatore are being operated by Kingfisher airlines, they said, adding, "All these sectors have been clocking a seat factor of 80 per cent or more".
They hoped that the Civil Aviation Ministry would take corrective measures when the summer schedule of the airlines comes up for approval early next month.