IndiGo and Akasa Air topped the charts on most months in 2023 for being the best on-time-performing carriers in India. While IndiGo had the highest proportion of on-time arrivals for six months in 2023, (January, February, July, August, September and October), Akasa bagged the first position for five months (March, April, May, November and December), according to Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s data. Vistara had the best On-Time Performance (OTP) in June.
In 2023, the best OTP was recorded by Akasa Air in March, when 94.2 per cent of its flights were on time. IndiGo, the largest Indian domestic carrier, ranked second, with an OTP of 92 per cent. However, since the March peak, the OTP percentage of airlines started to drop. It worsened in the winter months of November and December. Akasa had the best OTP in both months, but it was just 78.2 per cent in November and 72.7 per cent in December.
It was a steep fall for IndiGo, too, in those months. The carrier ranked second in November, with an OTP of 77.5 per cent; in December, IndiGo ranked third with a score of 68 per cent. While January 2024 isn’t over yet, in the first half of the month, the airline was all over the news for a series of delays in multiple airports in the country, mostly due to fog and bad weather.
In almost all months, more than half of the delays were ‘reactionary’, going by DGCA bulletins. Reactionary delays are delays caused by the late arrival of aircraft, crew, passengers or loads from a previous journey. Every month, the DGCA releases the OTP of all domestic airlines, based on the arrival data from four metro airports — Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai; Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru; Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi; and Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad. However, there are 148 airports in India, as of June 2023. Owing to this, there are criticisms of trustworthiness of the data.
Aviation safety consultant Captain Mohan Ranganathan, who questioned the data, said the delays will be higher than what is recorded by the DGCA. “The data is loaded to project that everything is fine. The OTP data doesn’t track departures and often airlines fudge the arrival timing, usually longer than what is required to cover a certain duration. This gives extra minutes to make up for delays, which could have happened due to late departure,” he says. He also said that cancelled flights are also not shown in the list of delayed flights.
At the same time, according to the 2023 OTP put out by aviation analytics company Cirium, IndiGo was the fourth best-performing airline in the Asia-Pacific region, with 82.12 per cent on-time arrival flights. The toppers in the category are All Nippon Airways (82.75 per cent), Japan Airlines (82.58 per cent) and Thai AirAsia (82.52 per cent). The review, however, considers only the top 30 per cent of airlines in the region, based on available seats and flights. Notably, IndiGo’s Chief Commercial Officer, Willy Boutler, is a member of Cirium’s Advisory Board.