Indian aviation rising above Covid-19 clouds; October sees 34% busier skies

The rise in passenger movement was largely attributed to DGCA’s move to increase the cap on flight capacity and the advent of the festive season

Indian aviation rising above Covid-19 clouds; October sees 34% busier skies
Passengers at the Delhi airport. Image courtesy: Twitter/ @NilanjanaGupta

Ease of restrictions and the festive season has made the Indian skies busier. Yes, the Indian aviation sector, which had taken a huge blow due to a two-month suspension of operations, is finally seeing green shoots.

The latest statistics from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) show 52.7 lakh passenger movements in October. This number is a huge relief for the sector as it is 33.67% more than the number of passengers who travelled in September. The air passenger traffic in September stood at 39.43 lakh.

However, October 2020 numbers stand nowhere in comparison to previous year's numbers. DGCA data show that a whopping 1.2 crore passengers travelled in October 2019, which is 57% more than this year’s number. But aviation experts say that it is irrelevant to compare this year's data with that of the previous year as the Covid-19 pandemic has completely changed the dynamics of the game.

Among the airlines, IndiGo continues to dominate the market with 55.5% domestic market share, followed by Spicejet at 13.4%, Air India at 9.4%, GoAir at 7.5%, AirAsia India at 7.1% and Vistara at 6.4%, with others accounting for the remaining 0.7%.

Also read: Covid-bitten Indian aviation punches back, but still quite shaky

The rise in passenger movement was largely attributed to DGCA’s move to increase the cap on flight capacity and the advent of the festive season. 

Earlier this month, the DGCA had increased the cap on flight capacity to 70%. This was the third hike in the operational capacity since flight operations resumed in May after a two-month break on account of the coronavirus pandemic.  

The DGCA’s data reflect that all the major airlines, except Vistara, witnessed a rise in aircraft occupancy in October over September.

Passenger load factor (PLF) was recorded at 61-74% during October. In this department too, an improvement was seen from 57-73% in September. However, it was significantly lower than 76-90% seen in October last year.

Also read: Indian aviation sector mauled by Covid-19, but refuses to die

Passenger load is used to estimate the capacity utilisation of transport services, including air transport.

SpiceJet registered the highest PLF of 74% and carried around seven lakh passengers during October. Its performance was slightly up from 73% seen in the previous month.

The market leader, IndiGo’s PLF during October stood at 68.2%, compared to 65.4% in September. It carried close to 29.3 lakh passengers in a month.

State-run carrier Air India had a passenger load factor of 62.1%. It carried 4.9 lakh domestic passengers.

Vistara -- a joint venture of Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines -- reported a passenger load factor of 65.2% and it carried 3.4 lakh passengers. Meanwhile, AirAsia India, jointly run by Tata Sons and AirAsia Berhad, posted a 63% load factor, while carrying around 4 lakh people in October.

The Wadia Group-controlled GoAir posted a 61.8% passenger load factor with 4 lakh fliers last month.