A capacity crunch due to grounded planes has forced carriers to scale down operations and offer fewer flights on key routes. This comes during the peak holiday season for Indians and amid reports of growing traffic after the pandemic. The imbalance in supply and demand means that those wishing to take a flight this winter will likely have to spend more on airfares.

Fewer planes to fly

Airlines in India typically look forward to the second half of the year, starting with the festive season around October and extending to the winter schedule covering December and the first few months of the following year. This is when most Indians usually take to the skies to meet friends and family and have their annual vacation.

This is also the time when airlines generate substantial revenue due to increased demand. However, even as 2022 welcomes more passengers than the last two years, India’s aviation regulator has approved fewer flights than 2021 for the winter season.

Indian Airlines at Delhi Airport

Photo: Getty Images

Around 75 aircraft – mostly of IndiGo and Go First – are currently grounded due to a lack of engines and spare parts. The global supply chain issues have affected around 10-12% of the Indian fleet, resulting in fewer flights on some key routes.

A Business Standard report cites data from Cirium, which says that six major carriers – IndiGo, Go First, SpiceJet, Vistara, Air India, and AirAsia India – have planned 6.4% fewer flights in December compared to 2021.

Routes affected include the busy Delhi-Mumbai sector along with Delhi-Goa, Delhi-Srinagar, Hyderabad-Bengaluru, and Delhi-Patna. Goa, a popular beach destination filled with tourists around Christmas and New Year, will see almost 11% fewer flights in December.

Grounded

The capacity crunch is mainly fueled by the grounding of planes by two carriers – IndiGo and Go First. IndiGo, the country’s largest airline, recently revealed that it has been forced to ground more than 30 aircraft because of a lack of engines and spare parts, affecting almost 10% of its fleet.

Go First Airbus A320

Photo: Getty Images

Go First is operating 31 out of its 59 all-Airbus A320 fleet as more than 40% of its planes are also grounded. Even as the airline operates fewer flights, it is trying to maintain its schedule by upping the utilization of its active airplanes.

The airline has been affected by a surge in flight delays and cancellations lately, resulting in a few instances where the passengers had arrived at the airport only to find out that the flight did not exist. This has even forced the DGCA to look into its operations.

Passenger traffic up

While there’s never a good time for an airline to ground its fleet, this is possibly the worst time it could have happened. With COVID no longer a threat, passengers are willing to fly again after a long time. The DGCA’s data revealed that India’s domestic traffic grew 10% sequentially in October, and the trend is likely to continue for the next few months.

This is precisely when airlines were needed to operate at full capacity. While carriers will not be able to cash in on demand fully, passengers, too, are staring at higher-than-normal fares.

Aircraft of Indian airlines parked at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International in Kolkata

Photo: Getty Images

December ticket prices in India are higher even in a good year, but with this year’s capacity crunch coupled with the rise in fuel prices, passengers can expect to pay through the roof for certain sectors (around 13 to 155% more, according to data by travel portal ixigo).

It remains to be seen how long the global supply-chain issues continue to affect Indian carriers before things get back to normal.

What are your views on this? Please leave a comment below.

Source: Business Standard

Source: simpleflying.com

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