Saturday, March 16, 2019

Airfares may remain high in near term as 16% of India's fleet inactive

If you are travelling by air in the near term, be prepared to deal with sky-rocketing fares as 16 percent fleet of the Indian airlines is currently out of operations.

A rigorous check of data from aircraft tracking website Flightradar24, airline websites and company officials showed that of the total fleet of 668 planes spread across nine carriers, 107 aircraft have remained inactive at least since March 14.

Jet Airways, the 26-year-old airline, finds itself at the top of the inactive fleet chart with 59 planes out of service. The severely beleaguered airline is currently running only 61 planes, almost 51 percent of its total fleet of 119 planes, a senior DGCA official told CNBC-TV18.

Maharaja carrier Air India secured the second spot with 17 planes out of operations due to want of spare parts, a senior official said. If one adds two inactive planes of Air India Express and four of regional arm Alliance Air, the total inactive fleet count for the Air India family comes down to 23 out of a cumulative fleet of 171 aircraft.

SpiceJet follows next with 12 grounded planes, taking its total fleet down by 15.7 percent to 64. With nine planes out of operations on account of maintenance, budget carrier GoAir has also cut down its current capacity by over 19 percent.

Market leader IndiGo and AirAsia India also had a four and one aircraft out of operations respectively. Vistara emerged as the only carrier which is currently operating all its 22 aircraft.

This reduction in capacity across airlines is a function of various factors ranging from financial trouble for some to scheduled maintenance for others. Jet Airways, which has been at the centre of a financial storm, has been unable to pay lease rentals on as many as 37 planes, as per its exchange filings. For GoAir, the reasons are related to maintenance.

"The airline business has to factor lean and peak seasons from multiple perspectives – including sales, marketing and maintenance of the aircraft...At GoAir, we follow this very business principle of undertaking “scheduled” maintenance & engineering checks of the aircraft in the months of January, February and March so that GoAir has maximum capacity to cater to in the ensuing peak season. These checks are done purely from the sales-demand perspective," a spokesperson from GoAir said in a query seeking reasons behind its grounded fleet.
16/03/19 Anu Sharma/CNBC TV18