Air India tops the list in flight cancellations, delays

Anand Kalyanaraman | Updated on: Dec 06, 2021

Travel chart

Aviation experts attribute this to airworthiness of aircraft, technical troubles

What are the chances that the domestic flight you book gets cancelled? Nearly 1 in 100, show data from aviation regulator DGCA. Excluding the winter months between November and January when flight cancellations spiked due to low visibility and SpiceJet’s troubles, the overall cancellation rate of domestic airlines, on an average, was 0.83 per cent over the last year. But if you were flying with national carrier Air India, the cancellation percentage more than doubled to 1.85 per cent.

Between July 2014 and June 2015, flight cancellations by Air India affected more than 63,000 passengers, accounting for nearly half the total number of passengers affected across airlines. At a distant second, Jet Airways’ flight cancellations affected almost 34,250 passengers. Next in line was SpiceJet which saw a sharp rise in cancellations during its near-death days between November and January.

Winter trouble

Air India tops the charts when it comes to delays in flights too. Over the past year, Air India delaying its flights for more than two hours impacted 4.5 lakh passengers — that’s more than 60 per cent of the total affected passengers in the sector. Surprisingly, IndiGo, which had a stellar record with nil flight cancellations, was next only to Air India when it comes to flight delays. Nearly 2 lakh passengers were affected by IndiGo’s flight delays last year; most of these in December and January when visibility was poor in North India.

Air India and IndiGo did not respond to our queries on cancellations and delays. Says Bharath Mahadevan, independent aviation consultant, “Air India needs to analyse the reasons behind these problems; the number is abnormally higher than other airlines. The reason is probably the airworthiness of aircraft and technical troubles, pointing to maintenance issues.”

On IndiGo, Mahadevan says, “Indigo’s performance on delays should be evaluated against the number of aircraft it operates and the number of passengers it carries. Being the largest airline in the domestic market, it will have a high absolute number of passengers affected by delays.” IndiGo is the largest domestic airline with market share of 38.4 per cent in the recent June quarter.

Air India and Jet Airways also ‘denied boarding’ to a few hundred passengers each month last year. This happens because the airlines overbook flights — by selling more seats than available. Overbooking is a globally allowed practice for seat optimisation by airlines in anticipation of ‘no-shows’. Going by the fairly large number of passengers being denied boarding every month by Air India and Jet Airways, their forecasting systems used to estimate the number of ‘no-shows’ could do with some fine-tuning.

Compensation paid

The DGCA has laid down norms for facilities to be provided and compensation to be paid to passengers affected by flight cancellations, delays and ‘denied boarding’. Not surprisingly, cash-strapped Air India is paying up tidy sums each month. In all, it compensated passengers more than ₹13 crore in the last 12 months, shows DGCA data. This is in addition to refunds, rebooking, hotel accommodation and refreshments to passengers where applicable. Jet Airways compensated passengers more than ₹3 crore.

Says Amber Dubey, Partner and India Head of Aerospace and Defence at global consultancy KPMG, “As the air traffic volumes rise in India and competition becomes fiercer, there will increased pressure on airlines to address passenger grievances. Airlines will do well to reduce instances of flight cancellations, delays and ‘denied boarding’. Frayed tempers and chaotic scenes at the airports can hurt the sector as a whole. The Ministry too should put in place a strong ombudsman, including consumer rights experts, to address service quality issues proactively.”

Published on July 19, 2015
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