CHENNAI: Whether the grass on either side of the runway is looking greener or not, the skies must certainly be looking bluer for Indian airline operators. In a robust turnaround after the Spicejet fracas last December, Indian air carriers flew 3.88 crore passengers within the country in the first half of 2015, registering a 19.81 per cent increase over the same period last year.
According to the DGCA’s traffic report published recently, despite the introduction of new airlines like AirAsia India, Air Costa, Pegasus and Vistara, existing airlines have surpassed their mid-year marks set in 2014. One of the major reasons for this turnaround is not just the constant slashing of fares and flash sales that have become the norm, but also the increased propensity of the Indian traveller to use air travel as the preferred option. “Earlier, the maximum number of low cost air travellers used to be people who booked well in advance for the cheapest prices. Now, we’re seeing a lot of people flying to places like Coimbatore, Tiruchy, Madurai and other smaller places instead of taking a bus or train because of the convenience factor involved. This is a good sign for Indian aviation,” said IATA accredited travel agent S Jagannathan.
Building on the bulwark of a year that 2014 was for them, Indigo has been rampant in their charge again — where they flew 2.14 crore passengers the whole of last year, they’ve managed to fly 1.45 crore passengers by June end already. “This is a reaffirmation that just low prices aren’t enough. Reliability and getting people to destinations on time is crucial to get customers to fly with you again and again,” said an official with the true-blue airline.
Galvanising the airline industry has been the robust holiday spirit that Indians have shown, particularly in flying to smaller hometowns in the months of May and returning in June.
In a recent study by travel portal Yatra, it was found that 49 per cent of Indians did not worry about factors like the rupee’s fluctuations while planning vacations — extending to domestic holidays too. “Most Indian travellers are unfazed and continue to make holiday plans. Savvy travellers book well in advance and are confident of getting good deals within their budget. The drop in oil prices has also helped in driving flight prices lower this year,” said Sharat Dhall, president of Yatra.com.
With six more airlines to enter the Indian domestic air market in the next year - Trujet being the most recent to begin connecting smaller towns like Tirupati and Rajahmundry with Aurangabad and Salem - it’s a promising sign that air traffic appears to be in good health. “For the past few years, the signs were a bit worrisome. But with our low-level capital expenditure of about Rs 500 crore, we’ve managed to enter the market with smaller ATR aircraft and ensure that passengers get a value deal that they’ll appreciate at a minimal price. That is what we are focusing on by flying to sectors where nobody operates to currently so that we can create a market there,” said Trujet CEO V Umesh.