WHILE DOMESTIC air traffic grew by 28 per cent in March when compared to last year, certain key routes connecting Mumbai to other metropolitan cities have seen a dip in passenger load across major airlines last month, states a study by safety body Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). As March marks the end of the financial year, it is an off-peak season for business and leisure travel.
According to the March air traffic data provided by DGCA, key routes, including Mumbai-Delhi, Mumbai-Bengaluru and Mumbai-Hyderabad, have reported a dip in the “seats sold in the highest fare bracket”. This means that the number of passengers planning trips to these cities, one or two weeks ahead of the date of travel, has reduced.
Sharat Dhall, Chief Operating Officer (B2C), Yatra.com, said: “As per the March DGCA report, there has been a marginal decline in the percentage of seats sold in the highest fare class for most airlines when compared to February. This is on account of the overall load factors in March having reduced marginally, as well as less people travelling for business.”
“Business travel is the largest contributor to last minute travel and hence, the consumption of higher fares. March typically sees lower business travel on account of closing of the financial year and this seems to be the case this year as well.”
While Jet Airways operates over 135 flights out of Mumbai to local and overseas destinations, IndiGo operates over 102 flights. For example, passenger seat occupancy for the highest fare segment in Jet Airways between Mumbai and Delhi in March fell to 0.40 per cent as compared to 0.89 per cent in February. Similarly, flights between Mumbai and Bengaluru on IndiGo witnessed 0.02 per cent occupancy last month as compared to 0.13 per cent in February in the same category.
Other airlines, including Vistara, Spice Jet and Go Air, also witnessed a dip in the key sectors operating out of Mumbai.
While February marks the end of winter travel for commuters, March also sees students undertaking final term exams. Rakshit Desai, Managing Director, FCM Travel Solutions – Indian subsidiary of Flight Centre Travel Group, Australia, said: “Mumbai-Delhi is the third busiest route in the world. While there was no dip in air traffic, the passenger load factor declined marginally in March owing to a traditional lean-travel period. Amid school exams and year-ending for corporates, March was slightly low vis-à-vis last year.”
Travel websites state that the dip in travel could also be because of increased airfares between metropolitan sectors. In March, the flight ticket to Delhi from Mumbai, booked a week in advance, saw a seven per cent increase when compared to a regular advanced booking.
Moreover, many Delhi-bound flights of IndiGo from Mumbai were affected in March after they had to suspend flights due to issues with the engines of the Pratt and Whitney make.
As alternative travel, three premium train services of Rajdhani ply between Mumbai and Delhi every day. Senior Railways officials said booking in these trains was more than average in March. “Though Mumbai-Delhi is one of the most popular sectors, March usually sees lesser traffic commuting between the two cities. In April, the picture would change as summer travel sets in. Additional holiday special trains connecting metropolitan cities will be run,” a Railways official said.
While premium trains witness dynamic pricing in ticket booking, the highest ticket cost hardly exceeds Rs 5,000 on a Rajdhani train to Delhi, officials said.