Friday, January 29, 2016

Delhi Airport: Share of International passenger traffic must be improved (PART-1)

by Soumen Mukherjee
Indira Gandhi International Airport (IATA code: DEL) in Delhi is the busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic not just in India but in entire South Asia. In 2015 Delhi Airport had handled 45.98 million passengers, registering a whopping 15.66% growth over passenger figure of 2014. And as predicted in this blog earlier, it is likely to cross 47 million annual passengers traffic by the end of current fiscal year (Apr'15-Mar'16). And at the current growth rate, Delhi Airport to achieve 54-55 million annual passenger traffic in FY2017. In 2014, Delhi Airport had been ranked the 31st busiest airport in the world. And given the positive outlook of Indian aviation sector, which recorded above 20% YoY growth in 2015, it is poised to feature among the top 20 busiest airports globally in the coming years.
 While there has been a robust domestic growth at the airport with more than 20% year on year growth, international capacity growth has not peaked up yet. In 2015, the overall passenger traffic growth rate is at 15.66% while the domestic passenger traffic growth rate is at whopping 21.64%, the international passenger traffic grew at only 3.56% rate.

If we compare Delhi Airport with other airports of similar size across the globe within the range of 35 to 50 million annual passenger traffic as of 2014 level. 7 Airports are ranked among top 30 busiest airports in terms of international passengers while Delhi Airport is no where near the bottom of the chart. For example, Munich Airport which had recorded almost same number of total passengers in 2014, had handled 30.23 million international passengers out of 39.70 million. While Delhi Airport's share of international traffic is only 13.36 million out of 39.75 million total passengers in 2014.

Total pax
International Pax
Taiwan-Taoyuan International Airport
35.80 mil
35.40 mil
Tokyo-Narita International Airport
35.45 mil
29.62 mil
Munich Airport
39.70 mil
30.26 mil
Delhi-Indira Gandhi International Airport
39.75 mil
13.36 mil
Miami International Airport
40.94 mil
20.09 mil
Seoul-Incheon International Airport
45.66 mil
44.90 mil
Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi Airport
46.42 mil
37.18 mil
Kuala Lumpur International
48.93 mil
34.43 mil

In 2015, two new airlines had opened their hub at Delhi Airport, Vistara started its operation in early January 2015 with Delhi as its hub while AirAsia India changed its path and opened Delhi as its northern hub in June 2015. But both the airlines are now restricted by the 5/20 rule from opening international routes. Aviation Ministry is expected to release its final Aviation policy by March and it is widely anticipated that the 5/20 rule will be removed or altered to allow new airlines to fly abroad. Both Vistara and AirAsia India had tried hard to convince Govt to relax the 5/20 rule which only allows Indian airlines with more than 5 years of domestic flying experience and fleet size of 20 to go international. While AirAsia India is looking for hort-haul and mostly unserved/underserved routes from Delhi in the neighboring countries. The airline executive had publicly stated that they are interested in flying to Myanmar, Cambodia etc. Vistara on the other hand is gearing up for long-haul international flights to Europe, North America, Africa and far Easts once Govt allows them to do so. 

Prospective new flights

1)The Malaysian medium to long-haul low cost carrier AirAsia X has just resumed Delhi service after a gap of 4 years. In early February it has started 4x weekly Airbus A330-300 service on Delhi-Kuala Lumpur route. (details in Part-2)
2) Air India Express is coming back to Delhi where it will open its base in May 2016; Initially it will fly Boeing 737-800 flights to Dubai and Sharjah as it already announced those routes effective from 10 May 2016; Later the airline is interested in serving Central Asia, Iran and other destinations in Middle East. Tehran is of particular interest as the current connectivity between Delhi and Tehran is poor.
3) Mongolian flag-carrier MIAT Mongolian has announced its plan to launch direct flight from its base in Ulan Bator to Delhi in the summer schedule. Though it has not yet revealed any launch date or a possible schedule of the flight. 
4) Taiwanese carrier and Star Alliance member EVA Air is all set to launch direct flight to Delhi in 2016 from its base at Taiwan-Taoyuan International Airport. Rival airline and SkyTeam member China Airlines operates 3x weekly flight on Taipei-Delhi route which continues to fly to Rome from Delhi.
5)The Malaysian medium to long-haul low cost carrier AirAsia X has just resumed Delhi service after a gap of 4 years. In early February it has started 4x weekly Airbus A330-300 service on Delhi-Kuala Lumpur route. (details in Part-2)
6) Star Alliance member LOT Polish Airlines has shown interest in opening direct route to Delhi from its base in Warsaw-Chopin Airport in Poland in early 2016. No other carrier serves the route currently. But there is no update on the route launch as of February 2016.
7) European low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle is keen to launch its long-haul arm Norwegian Long Haul to Delhi from its European bases. It is likely that the carrier may launch Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner flight on Delhi-London (Gatwick) or Delhi-Copenhagen route in 2016;

Major missing routes:

1) Washington D C., the capital of USA is one of major missing links in Delhi Airport's network. Earlier Air India used to serve it via New York. According to an estimate, there are around 500 O&D passengers (two way) between India and Washington. Air India is actively studying the feasibility of the Delhi-Washington non-stop direct flight which it is likely to launch by 2016 end. Vistara too is interested in the Delhi-Washington (IAD) route provided Govt allows them to fly abroad.
2) Madrid is the Europe's 6th busiest airport with 41.81 million passenger traffic in 2014; While Delhi Airport is well connected with all other top 10 busiest airports in Europe, Madrid is the only exception which is not yet served from Delhi Airport. According to an estimate, there are around  300 O&D passengers (two-way) between Delhi and Spain. Good news is Air India is considering launching direct flight to Madrid from Delhi. Jet Airways too should consider Madrid as its next long-haul destinations as Jet Airways will have an additional Airbus A330-300 being freed up from Brussels service in the summer schedule.
3) Philippine's capital Manila is another notable absence in Delhi Airport's network. Philippine Airline used to fly 302 seats Airbus A330-300 service to Delhi, non-stop flights till 2011 and after that it continued to serve the route via Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport till 2013;  But it had decided to withdraw from the sector due to poor loads (~50%) on the non-stop flights. It would be interesting if one of the Indian carriers start flying on the Delhi-Manila route in 2016;
4) Africa is one of the major area which lacks adequate direct connectivity from Delhi Airport. Currently only Ethiopian Airline serves Delhi Airport from the continental Africa while Air Mauritius is the other carrier which connects Delhi with the Indian ocean island nation. In fact many of the African cities are accessible with narrow body aircraft which makes it easier for even low-cost carriers to launch direct flights to Africa. Sometime back Egypt Air had shown interest in serving Delhi-Cairo route but it had not started the service yet. Johannesburg is a major potential destination in terms of large Indian diaspora population in South Africa, currently it is not connected with any airports in India. Vistara had indicated its interest in operating on Delhi-Johannesburg route when it becomes eligible for flying abroad.

Changes in existing international capacity:
Here we will look at changes in the existing capacity on international routes from Delhi Airport, we will focus on western routes on Part-1 and later will look at Eastern routes on Part-2 (coming-up). Among the western routes served from Delhi Airports at least 8 routes showing increase in capacity in 2016 from their 2015 level while Brussels routes is being dropped by Jet Airways.

Addis AbabaEthiopian Airlines, the Star Alliance member which operates the only direct link to continental Africa from Delhi Airport, will double its frequency on the Delhi-Addis Ababa route to 14x weekly from 27 March 2016; It will fly double daily Boeing 737-800 flights with convenient transit options to other major African destinations like Johannesburg, Lagos etc.

Amsterdam: KLM operates daily flight on Delhi-Amsterdam route which is the only flight currently on the route. Jet Airways to join KLM to offer daily flight on Delhi-Amsterdam route from summer schedule. As Jet Airways is While KLM to operate Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in summer, Jet Airways will fly Airbus A330-300; These will increase the Delhi-Amsterdam seat capacity to almost double. 

Brussels: Jet Airways, which maintains its European scissor hub at Brussels, will move its hub to Amsterdam and therefore cease all flights to and from Brussels in late March 2016. This will result in no direct flight available between Delhi and Brussels. But it is reported that Brussels based Brussels Airlines is working with its fellow Star Alliance member Air India, to resume direct flight to India (Delhi or Mumbai).

Dubai: At present, six airlines operate 82 weekly flights on the Delhi-Dubai route. In 2016, Indian carriers are gearing up their capacity on the busy route; While IndiGo has introduced its 3rd daily flights on the route on 10 February 2016 Jet Airways to add 3rd daily frequency from 27 March 2016; Another Indian airline, Air India Express to start flying on the Delhi-Dubai route from 10 May 2016; Dubai is the busiest international route from Delhi with 1.25 million pax on the sector (two way) during the first quarter of 2015. There will be 96 weekly flights (one way) in the summer schedule.

Istanbul: Turkish Airlines is the only airline operating on Delhi-Istanbul route, it currently operates daily Airbus A330-300 service on Delhi-Istanbul route. But Turkish Airlines is scheduled to upgauge its Delhi capacity from late April 2016 when it will fly daily Boeing 777-300ER service to Delhi.

Lahore: Pakistan International Airlines which is the only airline operating on the Delhi-Lahore route, has increased its weekly frequency from 1x weekly to 2x weekly (3,5) from 6 January 2016. In the new schedule the 2x weekly flights are being operated on ATR-72-500 while earlier 1x weekly flight used to be operated on Airbus A320-200; Therefore even with doubling the frequency, the overall weekly seat capacity has been reduced on the Delhi-Lahore route.

London: There are four airlines operating 7 daily flights on the Delhi-London Heathrow route. While British Airways continues to operate double daily flights on the route, Jet Airways and Virgin Atlantic both fly one flight each. Air India, which used to operate double daily flights till October 2015, had introduced 3rd daily flight on the route from early November 2015. And Air India to operate all 3 service on Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner in the summer schedule. With these, 5 out of 7 flights on the route will be operated on Boeing 787 Dreamliner series as  British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fly one each Boeing 787-9 flight. 

Moscow: In 2015, at the peak there were three different airlines operating on the Delhi-Moscow route. While Aeroflot continued to fly daily Airbus A330-200 service from Moscow-Sheremetyevo. Air India, which had launched Moscow-Domodedovo route in 2014, mostly operated 2x weekly Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner service except certain peak seasons. A third airline, Transaero had introduced its 2x weekly Boeing 767-300 service from Moscow-Vnukovo airport in February 2015 but the service got suspended in late October 2015 as the airline became bankrupt.

In 2016, Aeroflot is increasing the DEL-SVO frequency to double daily from 1 March 2016; While the new second frequency will be operated on Boeing 737-800, the existing one will be served till 26 March 2016. In the summer schedule, Aeroflot will operate double both the daily flights on Delhi-Moscow route on Boeing 737-800; And Air India will continue to operate 2x weekly (1,5) Boeing 787-8 service in the summer schedule. Despite the increase in frequency from 13x weekly (2015 peak) to 16x weekly (2016), the weekly seat capacity remains static on the Delhi-Moscow route.

Muscat: While currently two airlines, Oman Air and Air India operates 3 daily flights on the Delhi-Muscat route, a third carrier and second one from Indian side, Jet Airways to commence daily flights from 21 March 2016; All 4 daily flights will be operated on narrow-body jets.

Newark: United operates non-stop daily flights on Delhi-Newark route on Boeing 777-200ER while Jet Airways operates the route daily via its European hub at Brussels. But Jet Airways is moving its hub from Brussels to Amsterdam in late March and at the same time dropping the one-stop Airbus A330-300 flight to Newark. Therefore there will be a marked reduction in the Delhi-Newark capacity.

Paris: Air India and Air France are the two carriers operate on the Delhi-Paris (CDG) route. While Air India continues to fly daily Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner on the route, Air France is reducing the frequency from daily to 5x weekly in the summer schedule. Air France operates Airbus A300-200 on the route.

San Francisco: In December 2015, Air India had launched 3x weekly flight on Delhi-San Francisco route. Air India flies 3-class Boeing 777-200LR on the route with 8 First-class seat, 35 seats in Business class and 195 seats in the Economy. Now it is known that Air India will reconfigure its fleet of 3 Boeing 777-200LR shortly. When it will remove the First-class accommodation in order to increase Economy seating. This will lead to small increase in weekly seat capacity of Delhi-San Francisco route.

Sharjah: While Air Arabia operates double daily flights on Delhi-Sharjah route, Air India Express to join it from the Indian side which will fly daily flight on the route from 10 May 2016. All the 3 daily flights will be operated on narrow-body aircraft.

Toronto: Air Canada which resumed Delhi-Toronto service in November 2015, had upgauged its capacity with all 4x weekly Boeing 787-9 flights in February 2016. Earlier it used to fly a combination of Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 aircraft on the route. Air Canada to start operating daily flight on the route in winter schedule 2016; On the other hand, Jet Airways operates Delhi-Toronto route via its European hub, and it will continue to operate Airbus A330-300 on the route in the summer schedule via its new European scissor hub at Amsterdam.


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