Thursday, February 18, 2016

2015: Domestic vs international capacity of Indian carriers

by Soumen Mukherjee
Indian carriers had carried total 99.48 million passengers in 2015 while 81.09 million passengers flew on domestic routes, the rest 18.39 million were international passengers. Currently almost all the Indian carriers, with exception of Air India Express, are heavily focused on the high growth domestic market which grew at record 20% rate in 2015. It is evident from the above chart that the incumbent Indian carriers are more interested in operating in India rather on international routes. Just have a look at the case of IndiGo, the market leader in terms of annual passengers carried, its international capacity is disproportionately low compared its overall passengers in 2015.
It is often said by some quarters that it is the '5/20' rule which is actually responsible for the domestic focus of Indian carriers otherwise they would fly more on international routes. The so called '5/20' rule makes it necessary of all new carriers to have 5 years of domestic flying experience and 20 aircraft fleet in order to go abroad. But even 4-5 years after IndiGo and SpiceJet became eligible for international flights their focus remains primarily on the domestic sector till now. Therefore it makes no sense to continue with the so called '5/20' rule and force new carriers to fly exclusively on domestic routes in the first five years. It should be left on the market forces to decide whether any particular airline prefer to fly on the international routes from the very beginning or it, like most others likes to focus on the domestic sectors first. And we must remember one thing that in order to have a well functioning international network, a carrier would obviously require to have a robust domestic network for traffic feed to and from international flights.




























In 2015, Jet Airways has maintained its top position in terms of International passengers carried to and from India. It had carried 7.06 million passengers to and from India in 2015 which accounts for 29% of its overall passengers while the national carrier Air India came position with 5.65 million passengers on its international network, roughly 30% of its overall passengers in 2015. Jet Airways has 22 international destinations in its network of 73 destinations while Air India flies to 35 international destinations out of its network of total 98 destinations. The share of short-haul international routes in Jet Airways's network is higher than that in Air India's network. For example, Jet Airways flies to Abu Dhabi from 11 Indian cities (10 regular and 1 seasonal). Air India Express, the low-cost international subsidiary of national carrier Air India, mostly operates on the international routes with 2.57 million international passenger in 2015 out of its 2.73 million overall passengers. Air India Express flies to 12 international destinations in its network of total 24 destinations.

SpiceJet's overall operation is much smaller compared to that of IndiGo's and there is a huge gap between the overall annual passengers of the two. In fact IndiGo's 2015 annual passenger figure is 3 times of SpiceJet's 2015 annual passengers but in terms of international operations SpiceJet is not far behind IndiGo. SpiceJet serves 6 destinations in abroad out of its network of total 40 destinations, it used to serve Kathmandu as well which it had discontinued in mid-2015, IndiGo serves 5 international destinations out of its network of total 39 destinations (40th destination: Dehradun to be added on 1 March 2016). In fact as of February 2016, both the LCC operate similar number of weekly frequencies on their respective international network. IndiGo operates 224 weekly flights and SpiceJet operates 222 weekly flights. In 2015, while SpiceJet carried 1.08 miilion passenger on its international network out of its total 10.5 million overall passengers in 2015, IndiGo carried 1.61 million passengers on its international network out of 31.35 million overall passengers in 2015. When compare the share of international passengers in the airline's overall passenger figure, SpiceJet's international passengers accounts for 10% of its overall passengers in 2015 while it is only 5% for IndiGo.

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