Thursday, February 25, 2016

Durgapur Airport continues to struggle with low passenger demand

by Soumen Mukherjee
India's first private greenfield airport at Andal near Durgapur, West Bengal continues to struggle even after a year of its commissioning. The airport project which is developed by the Bengal Aerotropolis Project limited (BAPL) which has Singapore's Changi Airport as one of its stake holder, is located just 170 km away from the Kolkata Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, the prime airport of East India. Therefore it is facing challenges in convincing new airlines to fly from the airport as it is too close to Kolkata airport. After long delays the airport had secured final operational clearance from the aviation regulator DGCA on 24 April 2015 and scheduled commercial flight operation started on 18 May 2015; Air India under its regional arm Alliance Air was the first airline to operate 3 weekly flights on Kolkata-Durgapur-Kolkata sector with 48 seater ATR-42 turboprop aircraft. Alliance Air had agreed to serve the route under the 'viability gap funding' scheme where the airport operator guarantied for a minimum load or compensate for the same so that the airline didn't make any loss on the route. But the response of the 45 minute short flight was muted given the sector was already well connected though Rail and road transports facilities. 

Bhutanese flag carrier Druk Air has entered into an agreement with the airport operator where it will use Durgapur Airport as a technical and refueling stop. Since Durgapur doesn't have clearance for international flight, Druk Air not able to operate commercial flight service at the moment. BAPL also is in talk with several private airlines in order to start direct flight to Mumbai and 1 or 2 destinations in South India. But all depends on the success of its maiden Delhi service by Air India as private operators having a close eye on the statistics of the route. Let's have a look at the performance of the two routes currently in operation from Durgapur Airport, Delhi and Kolkata.

From May to November 2015, Alliance Air only operated point to point service between Kolkata and Durgapur which used to be the only route of the airport. And as per DGCA released data of domestic city-pair passenger traffic, the route was not at all successful with below 50% loads on an average. From December Air India had commenced Kolkata-Durgapur-Delhi Airbus service while Alliance Air continued its ATR service till late December. This had brought complexity in the operation as a flight originating from Kolkata not just have passengers destined for Durgapur but also passengers flying one-stop to Delhi via Durgapur. Now it is surprising to see there a sharp fall in the Kolkata-Durgapur traffic in December and January at  a time when the service was upgauged from ATR-42 to Airbus A319. But the exact load factor of those two routes could not be calculated for the month of December and January on Kolkata-Durgapur and Durgapur-Delhi route as it also might have carried some one-stop passengers on Kolkata-Delhi route. However one can doubt the appeal of such one-stop flight on the well served Kolkata-Delhi route as 22 daily non-stop flights (one way) operate on the route including Air India's own 4 daily service. Air India flies double daily Dreamliner service on the route.

Total pax
Load factor
Air India's inaugural flight being welcomed with cannon shower at Durgapur

On 7 December 2015, Air India officially launched 3 weekly Kolkata-Durgapur-Delhi flights and return with 144 seater Airbus A319 aircraft with regular service started from 21 December 2015 while Alliance Air continued its Kolkata-Durgapur ATR-42 service till 18 December 2015; January 2016 was the first full month of the Delhi-Durgapur flight and total 1,037 passengers flew between Durgapur and Delhi during the month against a monthly seat capacity of 3,744 on the route. But this doesn't reflect the actual loads of the route as the same flight also offers one-stop connection on the Kolkata-Delhi route. But the January 2016 passengers data shows a great challenge for the Durgapur Airport.

Flight No.
Origin: Departure
Destination: Arrival
AI 733
Kolkata: 08:25
Durgapur: 09:00
AI 733
Durgapur: 09:30
Delhi: 11:45
AI 734
Delhi: 12:35
Durgapur: 14:40
AI 734
Durgapur: 15:20
Kolkata: 15:55


  1. I did not understand one thing in your data how in december total capacity was 1728 and in january it became 3744. I understand you have considered 156 A319 configuration in January. But keeping in mind that the flight is coming from Kolkata or Delhi and it has a load factor already in that route so we should not consider all the 156 seats for the durgapur delhi durgapur sector. Instead Air India will have a 70% or 60% seat allocated in the Durgapur Delhi Durgapur Sector.If I consider that 60% of the seats are dedicated for this sector then this calculation will be more interesting. In April 13 days it flew in this sector. Total capactiy 2X156= 312. 60% of that is 187 each day. so in 13 days it is 13X187 =2431 avaialbel seats. Data in april shows 1426 in this route. It gives 58.66% occoupency of the total avaialble seats. In the first 5 months of service this is a very good trend. I am leaving aside the tax free fuel from this airport. With that fuel the aircraft can fly to another 2 sectors after completing durgapur kolkata leg of the flight.

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