Slashed fares fail to lift domestic air travel

 NEW DELHI: The rock bottom fares being offered by airlines — none of which really remained budget carriers after Kingfisher's demise — have not been able to lure domestic flyers back to planes from the far cheaper trains. The first two months of this year saw 100.2 lakh people flying in India, down 3.6% from the figure of almost 104 lakh in January and February, 2012.

However, SpiceJet, which had come out with an all-inclusive fare of Rs 2,013 earlier this year, managed to gain flyers and became the third largest domestic carrier (by market share) behind
IndiGo and Jet Group by beating Air India (domestic) to the fourth spot. This wasn't the only setback for AI, despite claims by the aviation ministry of the Maharaja turning around.

"The passenger load factor in the month of February 2013 has remained almost same compared to January 2013 except SpiceJet, which has shown appreciable increase. This is perhaps due to the fact that
SpiceJetBSE -2.53 % offered a short term scheme on various sectors from January 11 to 13 for travel from February 2013 to April 2013," said a detailed fact sheet released by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on domestic traffic figures in the first two months of this year.

Domestic air travel has been in a freefall since early last year, mainly after troubles at
KingfisherBSE -0.48 % erupted. Other airlines hiked fares because of the drop in supply but in a weakening economy, it meant people simply switched to trains from planes.

Also, the DGCA's laxity in finalizing its much-delayed policy for compensating passengers denied boarding forcibly translated into a large number of 'sufferers'. The statistics for January and February, 2013, shows that 36,019 domestic passengers faced delays of over two hours in their flights.

Of these, 78% were flying AI (domestic). Similarly, 9,708 passengers faced flight cancellations. Of these, 55% were supposed to fly AI and 27% were booked on
Jet AirwaysBSE -0.33 % and JetLite. The Jet Group accounted for 73% of the 1,077 passengers who were denied boarding in this period.

The maximum flight cancellations were by AI and SpiceJet and least by IndiGo. However, IndiGo had the maximum number of passengers complaints in these months, according to the
DGCA data.