Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Airline passenger traffic is up, but so are flight cancellations

We are nearly four months into the restart of domestic aviation services. While the allowed capacity has increased from 33 percent to 60 percent and most rules — either around quarantine requirements or city pairs — are being relaxed, traffic hasn’t returned anywhere near what it was pre-Covid.

But for passengers reeling from having their money tied up in shells with airlines, to be used within a year, there has been no respite from flight cancellations.

Data released by DGCA shows that the flight cancellation rate in August was 4 percent, while it was over 6 percent in July.

In January, before the Covid-19 crisis hit, the cancellation rate stood at 1.7 percent, when there were three times as many flights in Indian skies.

While the cancellation percentage only looks at half the story, the regulator also declares the reasons for cancellations. While traditionally they have been stacked towards weather, technical or reactionary reasons, the last few months have seen a high percentage of cancellations being attributed to Commercial reasons.

In August, 44.6 percent of all cancellations were attributed to commercial reasons, while it was nearly 50 percent in July. Interestingly, in January, the cancellations attributed to commercial reasons were only 2.5 percent, with the major reason for cancellation being weather, followed by technical.

What exactly is a commercial cancellation? More often than not it is a direct indication that the flight was cancelled due to lack of passengers on either the onward or return leg or both. While traditionally, airlines had very few commercial cancellations, the numbers have risen steadily, to around 50 percent of all cancellations.

Global consulting and digital services company ICF came up with an exclusive analysis on the flights scheduled and operated by each of the airlines in India. This analysis was based on published schedules in SRS Analyzer (an airline data analytics tool) and actual flights as reported by real-time flight tracker

Amongst the major airlines in the country, market leader IndiGo flew 93 percent of its scheduled flights and was the topper, while Air India flew only 56 percent of the flights it intended to fly.

AirAsia India and Spicejet operated 81 percent and 80 percent of their planned flights in August.

23/09/20 Ameya Joshi/

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