IndiGo, India’s largest carrier by fleet, domestic and international market share, last week became the first-ever carrier to have ferried 100 million passengers in a financial year.
When the couple started in 2006-07, 35.79 million domestic passengers took to the skies in India. Adding it to the number of international passengers, the total passenger count that year was 59.16 million. IndiGo’s FY 2023 count is expected to dwarf twice the 2006 figures.
The feat comes as India is recording the highest-ever domestic traffic in history. IndiGo is on its way to close the year with highest-ever domestic market share. It is also adding capacity at never-seen-before speed.
The path to 100 million
In January, the airline was clocking 2.48 lakh passengers per day on an average, which included both domestic and international. This peaked to 2.95 lakh in June, a mix of peak season and the fall of Go FIRST in May. November saw an average of 2.98 lakh daily passengers. December became the first month in the history of the airline industry to cross the 3-lakh per-day mark.
At the start of December, Air India was 62,37,870 passengers short of the magic figure of 100 million this fiscal. At an average of 2.98 lakh passengers, the airline would have crossed that number on the 21st of December. However, it achieved the figure three days earlier.
The airline started with 1713 daily departures on an average in January this year, which stood at 1971 in November. These were scheduled departures only. With cargo and paramilitary charters, the number crosses 2000 daily flights on an average — another first-ever feat for an Indian carrier. The increase in flights comes on the back of induction of wet-leased aircraft to tide over the crisis of grounding from Pratt & Whitney powered aircraft.
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IndiGo will close the year with 30% more passengers than the previous year and 34% more passengers than 2019.
Domestic still the mainstay
Over the last many years, IndiGo has time and again said that it wants to expand its international operations at a much faster rate. While in isolation it has done that adding capacity, destinations and flights.
The airline continues to have a strong domestic presence. For the eleven months ending November, 89.3% of its passengers were on domestic flights with the rest 10.7% being international. Pre-COVID, these figures stood at 90.9% being domestic and 9.1% being international.
By the end of November, the airline had carried 70.36 million passengers and remained on track to carry 30 million passengers from December to March, achieving the 100 million mark this fiscal.
The airline has stayed above waters, irrespective of competition trying to corner it and has ensured business as usual even when supply chains, engines, pilot issues keep itself and competition stretched.
Where does the airline head from here on? The first and foremost is protecting its base against the Air India groups expansion and finding a way out of the mess that Pratt & Whitney engines have created for IndiGo and many other airlines worldwide.
The writer is an aviation analyst.