During the downturn, Indians continued journeying to Hong Kong & Dubai, but reduced trips to west.
The global economic downturn not only caused heart burn in India, it also dampened the Indians’ new found wanderlust encumbered by the difficult times. Indians reduced their travel to and fro various international destinations, but not all.
While flights operating between India and countries like the US, UK, Singapore, Sri Lanka suffered between the 2008 and 2010, a few places like Dubai and Hong Kong witnessed a surge in passenger traffic. Of these, Hong Kong s became the biggest beneficiary air traffic between India and the bustling Chinese city and it grew by 128% in 2008-09 and by 68% in 2009-10. During these years air traffic to most other countries fell by an average of 10% according to data released by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Traffic on Indian carriers
Domestic load factor 72
International load factor 71.1
Passengers figure in crores;
Load factor in percentage
Experts say the reason Hong Kong had suddenly found favour with fliers is the bilateral agreement signed between the special administrative region and India, which allowed Cathay Pacific to operate more flights between the two destinations.
The DGCA statistics also show that Indian airlines are slowly catching up with their foreign carriers on international routes. Though foreign airlines continued to ferry the majority of passengers to and fro India. Fliers have somewhat warmed up to Indians carriers in the last five years . In 2004-05, 71% of passengers flying between India and other destinations with foreign carriers fell to 66% by 2009-10.
With airlines like IndiGo scheduled to launch international operations this year, Indian carriers will continue to catch up.
Yet, airlines like Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines are several nautical miles behind their foreign rivals like Emirates. Air Arabia, and Qatar Airways when it comes to plain Vanilla numbers. In 2009-10 only 1.1 corers passengers flew Indian carriers on international routes compared to the 2.1 crore who chose foreign carriers.
The officials warned against making a linear comparison between domestic and foreign airlines. One must remember that these numbers do not make a distinction between say, a passenger flying to Singapore and the one flying to New York.
In the last five years airports like Doha and Dubai have emerged as major air hubs between India and the world. So, of the 2.1 crore passengers who flew to and from India on foreign carriers in 2009-10 a huge percentage would have transited at Doha or Dubai.
What you have is a passenger flying say on the Mumbai-Dubai-New York route on Emirates and another flying Mumbai-Dubai on Air India Express . In the statistics it will show as one passenger each for an Indian carrier and the foreign carrier. But there is a world of difference here.
It is a surprise then that Dubai did not witness a fall in air traffic. The number of people flying between India and Dubai have maintained a steady growth rate of 26% in the last five years. The only other destinations that have managed to have such a steady growth are those in the gulf.
If the Indian airline industry were asked to put a figure on the financial downturn, then it would probably be 64%. That is the average percentage of seats that carriers managed to fill up in 2008-09 when the slowdown dealt its worst blow to the airline industry worldwide. The trend reversed only in December 2009: for the first time in two years. Indian carriers had their aircraft fly on domestic routes with about 80% seats occupied. Though the figures dipped a bit after the peak travel season, the industry has done better ever since.
Excerpts from The Times of India