Domestic air traffic soars 20 per cent in January-March period

The aviation sector seems to be rapidly flying past its worst days - domestic air traffic saw a growth of over 20 per cent growth between January and March this year, with airlines carrying over 1.18 crore flyers, compared to less than one crore fliers in same quarter of 2009.

March, a traditionally weak travel month due to exams, saw an impressive 21.2 per cent growth in domestic air travel, with 39 lakh fliers taking to skies compared to a figure of 32.2 lakh in the same period last year, data released by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Thursday showed.

The growth since June 2009 (when the negative growth began reversing) was led by mainly by budget flying. The combined market share of pure low-cost carriers (LLCs) like IndiGo, SpiceJet, JetLite and Go Air is close to 40 per cent.

With Jet and Kingfisher now deploying almost 70-80 per cent of their domestic fleet on budget brands like Jet Konnect and Kingfisher Red, the share of LCC is close to 70 per cent now.

National carrier Air India (domestic) with a 17.8-per cent share is the only airline without a domestic LCC and now finds leading budget carrier IndiGo closely snapping at its heels.

The lean travel month of March saw passenger load factors of airlines going down from impressive 80-90 per cent highs in the December to February period. Big players saw their loads in the range of 74 per cent (IndiGo) to 66.5 per cent (AI-domestic). Pure LCCs enjoyed the highest loads, with Jet and Kingfisher remaining above 70 per cent due to a huge deployment of their planes on budget segment.