Private carriers’ international traffic grows 5% in 2012

Domestic air travel is in a slump. But Indian carriers have managed to find a way out — flying more international routes and cashing in on the boom in foreign travel.

The number of passengers carried on the international flights of domestic private airlines increased by 5 per cent in 2012, even as fewer passengers took domestic flights. International traffic accounted for 13.2 per cent of the total 55.35 million passengers carried by private airlines in 2012, up from 12.1 per cent in 2011.

Many private carriers made the most of this. In 2012, Jet Airways and JetLite saw a measly 0.9 per cent growth in passenger traffic on domestic flights.

This was a significant drop from the double-digit growth of the previous years. But passengers taking Jet’s international flights increased 8.5 per cent in 2012.

Low-cost carrier SpiceJet’s 40 per cent growth in international traffic last year was much higher than the 21 per cent rise in its domestic traffic. The airline, which started its international operations in the last quarter of 2010 with around 50,000 passengers that year, closed 2012 having flown more than 4 lakh passengers on its international routes.

More than a million passengers flew into and out of India on IndiGo’s aircraft in 2012 — an almost five-fold increase compared with 2011 when the airline commenced its international operations (September 2011).

This was far more impressive than the 25 per cent rise in the airline’s domestic traffic in 2012. A low base may have helped, but the sharp growth in foreign traffic shows a successful foray abroad.

Though it has completed five years in the domestic skies — a prerequisite to fly abroad — GoAir has not yet started international operations since it does not have the required 20 aircraft in its fleet.

Downfall of Kingfisher

Some of the international traffic garnered by other private carriers in 2012 seems to be at the expense of the beleaguered Kingfisher Airlines. The airline, which flew around 12.5 lakh passengers into and from India in 2011, saw its international traffic fall to just over 2 lakh last year. Kingfisher stopped its international operations last April, seven months before it halted its domestic operations.

Kingfisher wasn’t the only airline to lose out on all those international travellers. Data from the Web site of aviation regulator DGCA show that national carrier Air India’s international traffic fell by around 38 per cent between January and November 2012. But this does not take into account passengers who flew from April to November with the airline’s low-cost arm Air India Express.

The attractive deals on travel abroad, at a time when domestic fares have been skyrocketing, may have helped fill up the international flights faster in recent months. Low fares on destinations such as Dubai, Colombo, Singapore and Hong Kong appear to have been a big draw with Indian travellers.

anand.k@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on March 9, 2013)
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