Monday, September 5, 2016

Amritsar gears up for growth, needs network expansion

by Soumen Mukherjee




Delhi is Amritsar's primary domestic destination accounting for more than three fourth of its total domestic passengers (62,670 out of 80,814; 78% as of July 2016). Mumbai and Srinagar are the only other destinations that see non-stop flights from Amritsar and SpiceJet maintains a monopoly on both these routes. Surprisingly till date Delhi-Amritsar sector has remained one of the very few FSC dominated domestic routes in India with seven out of eight daily flights are being operated by full-service carriers. And one more domestic carrier is expected to start Amritsar service from next month. The catchment area of Amritsar airport and the overall Punjab region account for large VFR traffic to and from Australasia, North America and Western Europe but at present the airport lacks any non-stop flight to those places. Therefore, Amritsar-Delhi sector has become very important to both Air India, Jet Airways and their code share partners to feed long-haul flights from Delhi.


In last 12 months, Amritsar airport has recorded 27% MoM passenger growth on an average given though its limited network size. In FY2016, the airport had handled total 1,250,370 passengers (15.4% YoY growth) and ranked 27th busiest airport in India behind Chandigarh airport at 24th position with 1,534,053 passengers. Going by the early growth trend in the first four months of FY2017 Amritsar is expected to cross 1.5 million full year passengers posting higher annual growth rate. Still that would be much below its true potential. Unlike Chandigarh, Amritsar is very much in the heartland of Punjab that too with great religious significance, generate a large VFR traffic thanks to large Punjabi diaspora aboard. The rail/road distance to Delhi is also considerably higher from Amritsar than from Chandigarh. The airport needs new non-stop domestic destinations in the near future to tap the tourism potential as well as to drive business in the hinterland. The night curfew at the airport is believed to the main obstacle for growth as airlines can't park their aircraft at night and have early morning departure from the city. The same causes longer lay-over time between domestic and international connections as most West bound international flights operate near midnight in Delhi. So far Amritsar remains a missing spot on IndiGo's network. The airline has added four new domestic points in last 18 months: Dimapur, Udaipur, Dehradun and Port Blair (from 28 September 2016). And IndiGo is likely to add more destinations in the coming months including Amritsar given its aggressive expansion program. Vistara too which aspires to be a long haul international player is very likely candidate to launch Amritsar service.

Amritsar-Delhi existing non-stop schedule:


Flight No.
Departure
Arrival
Aircraft
Onward
Code share
AI 454
06:55
07:55
A321
--
--
AI 113
10:30
11:35
B788
Birmingham
--
9W 2662
10:45
12:00
B738
--
Alitalia
Etihad

AI 462

14:15

  15:30

B788

--
Air Canada
Turkish Airlines

9W 373

14:30

15:35

B738

Mumbai
Alitalia
Etihad
KLM


9W 739


18:35


19:40


B738


Chennai
Air France
Alitalia
Delta
Etihad
KLM
AI 115
19:05
20:10
A321
--
--
SG 2516
19:15
20:25
DH8
--
--

Competition on the 414 km (223 nm) Amritsar-Delhi route is mainly among the full-service carriers. Air India operates four daily flights including double daily flights on Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner as the domestic leg of its Delhi-Birmingham flight, the other two are operated on Airbus A321. Jet Airways operates three daily flights on Boeing 737-800 with two of those having onward connections to Chennai and Mumbai via Delhi. While SpiceJet maintains a small presence on the Delhi-Amritsar sector with a single daily frequency on its turbo prop Bombardier Q400 aircraft. SpiceJet is otherwise very important to the airport as it provides the only other non-stop domestic options with its Mumbai-Amritsar-Srinagar flight on board Boeing 737-800. As mentioned earlier international feed plays important role on Delhi-Amritsar sector which is evident from code share pattern. Air India code shares with Air Canada and Turkish Airlines. Interestingly, Turkish Airlines places its TK/THY code on Air India's flight only on Delhi bound flight. Jet Airways has more elaborate code share arrangement with Air France, Alitalia, Delta, Etihad and KLM which varies depending upon the flight timing to suit partner airlines's operations out of Delhi. 

Delhi-Amritsar existing non-stop schedule:


Flight No.
Departure
Arrival
Aircraft
Origin
Code share
AI 453
05:00
06:10
A321
--
--
AI 461
08:10
09:15
B788
--
Air Canada
 

  9W 390


08:55


10:05


B738


Mumbai
Air France
Alitalia
Delta
Etihad
KLM

AI 114

12:15

  13:15

B788

Birmingham
Air Canada
Turkish Airlines

9W 2791

12:40

13:50

B738

--
Alitalia
Etihad
KLM
9W 740
16:45
17:55
B738
Chennai
Alitalia
Etihad
AI 16
16:55
18:00
A321
--
--
SG 2515
17:40
18:55
DH8
--
--


International potential: 
Currently there are seven airlines operating non-stop international flights from Amritsar. Air India operates one-stop direct flight (same aircraft and same flight no.) to Birmingham via its Delhi hub. As expected Middle Eastern cities of Dubai and Doha are leading the city-pair passenger list in H1 2016 among the online market. In 2015, around 11,000 passengers (one-way) have traveled from different cities of Australia to Amritsar without having any direct flight and the number is expected to increase following the launch of Scoot which would offer more one-stop connections to Australian cities like Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney as opposed to only Perth by Malindo Air and Air India's Melbourne and Sydney via Delhi. 
Amritsar is unique to have non-stop to two Central Asian capital, the only Indian city other than Delhi to have Central Asian connectivity. Turkmenistan Airlines operates five weekly Boeing 757 flight to its hub at Ashgabat airport while Uzbekistan Airways connects Amritsar to Tashkent. The holy city also has three daily flights to Middle East, Qatar Airways operates daily Airbus A321 flight to Doha. From the Indian side both Air India Express and SpiceJet operate daily Boeing 737-800 flights to Dubai. Malindo Air which started operating three-weekly Boeing 737-900 flight from 25 October 2015, has increased frequency to daily flight. Singaporean long-haul LCC Scoot being the latest carrier entering Amritsar market on 24 May 2016 with three weekly Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner flight. Singapore Airlines itself used to operate Amritsar flight till February 2009. Significantly, in little over one month since its launch Scoot has carried 9,099 passengers (two-way) in Q2 2016 which shows the potential of the Scoot's Australasia connections from Amritsar, the airline has planned to increase service frequency to four weekly if not already increased.



The demand of international travel to western Europe is simply evident from the fact that five out of top ten connections of Turkmenistan Airlines originates from Amritsar. If it is the case for a relatively unknown and smaller player like Turkmenistan Airlines, a similar but larger trend is obvious with other network carriers operating out of Amritsar like Malindo Air, Qatar Airways and Scoot.


Though the Birmingham-Asghgabat-Amritsar traffic seen a drastic slump from the peak of 14,000 in 2013 to 1,603 in 2015 following launch of Air India's direct flight on the route via Delhi. Which underlines the fact that Delhi based network carriers can indeed win back some of those lost traffic from foreign sixth freedom operators if non-stop options or at least convenient one-stop connections via Delhi are made available by the desi airlines.

11 comments:

  1. Very interesting review on Amritsar. Would have worked out well for Air Canada as well unless the super bad code share with AirIndia. Not sure why they choose AI462 instead of AI115 to connect faster. This could be for AI to help Qatar Airways. Hope Amritsar-Canada traffic would increase with December launch of AI Canada services. Turkmenistan air is doing very well in spite of having a bad website booking. Euro-India traffic is seeing lot of competition. Aeroflot is competing vigorously with very low fares and extra baggage (46kgs) compared to 30 from the ME carriers. Aeroflot seems to be the best option from Nordic trio(ARN,OSL,CPH) to Delhi.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very good information. I hope Air India will start direct flight from Amritsar to Toronto. I read in another article that its plan for Toronto flight (not so sure from Delhi or Asr) has been shelved for now due to the start of its Ahmedabad-London-Newark flight. It has been said by many in the past that about 30-40 percent of international traffic from Delhi is from Punjab. Amritsar Airport can definitely fill direct flights to Toronto, Vancouver, London, Birmingham. I hope other carriers like Lufthansa will realize the full potential of Amritsar Airport and start direct flights soon that will provide connections to US, Canada and Europe.

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  3. Thanks for posting the article about Amritsar Airport. You wrote some very good points about the Airport. I am looking for the data on number of passengers that connects on these Air India and Jet Airways domestic flights from Delhi are actually international passengers. Out of these 75-80000 per month passengers to/form Delhi, how many came from AI, Jet and other international flights.


    Delhi airport after privatization has really hurt Amritsar Airport to grow at its full potential with National carrier Air India feeding all its traffic for Birmingham, London via Delhi. Air India replied to me in 2014 that they cannot make Birmingham flight direct to Amritsar as Delhi, Mumbai are AI's hub. But now in August they started direct Ahmedabad - London - Newark to please the Indian PM. Where is the National carrier Delhi, Mumbai hub policy. This is complete discrimination by the National carrier to other airports that has high potential of direct flights. This causes great inconvenience to passengers as 8 hours journey is increased to 15-16 hours.

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