The summer schedule for 2022 will come into effect on Sunday, March 27, 2022. Two years ago, when the summer schedule took effect, the situation was grim. The entire civil aviation ecosystem had come to a halt on March 25, 2020. What was initially expected to be for seven to ten days became a two-month long affair for the domestic flights and two years for international flights.
Without direct aid to airlines in India, many expected an airline (or two) to wind up but the industry has been resilient working its way up and sustaining in one way or the other.
By the time the lockdown was announced, the summer schedule was already approved and airlines had a plan to operate 24,395 weekly departures, which was up 4.6% sequentially. As airlines enter the Northern Summer 2022 schedule, the approved schedule stands at 25,309 weekly departures—an increase of 3.7% from a year ago. This is also an increase of 14% over the previous schedule, one of the sharpest upticks.
Growth driven by Air India
Surprisingly, the recently privatised Air India is leading the growth. The airline has approval for 2,456 weekly flights, 16.5% higher than what it had in Summer 2020 (2108 weekly departures).
Vistara, which is majority owned by the TATA group, is growing by 7.7% in Summer Schedule 2022 compared with two years ago. The third TATA airline, AirAsia India is not making any significant additions to its schedule with just five additional departures approved for this summer as compared to two years ago.
The market leader is not growing exponentially
IndiGo, the market leader in domestic skies, is growing by just 2.2%. However, the airline has better compliance and history of operating what is approved as compared to its peers which have faltered time and again. With 11,130 weekly departures, the airline has approval of 43.97% of all weekly departures on the domestic segment in the country.
The airline has been growing in the range of 5% to 7% each season in the past. However, the airline is in the middle of a fleet renewal program and has publicly stated in the past that they would have a dip in active aircraft count in 2022 before it leaps again.
This year will be unique for the airline when it will start retiring the first of its A320neo which complete the six-year lease and also retire the A320ceo. Remember that was a stop-gap arrangement due to the delays of the A320neo family.
Star Air, the all Embraer E-145 operator, is growing at a whopping 57%. This comes on the back of additional capacity being inducted and a very small base.
The airline had only 87 flights per week planned two years ago, which now increases to 137. However, this is less than what the all-ATR operator Flybig plans to operate. Flybig launched operations in December 2020 and has approval for 158 weekly departures, which is 21 departures more than Star Air!
TruJet, which has been facing turbulence in the recent past, is shrinking. While it has approvals for 355 weekly flights, it is unclear if the airline can sustain this schedule with limited aircraft.
Alliance Air, the only airline owned by the government, is increasing its weekly departure count by 5.8% this summer. The airline has been looking at ways to increase the utilisation of its aircraft and while primarily catering to RCS-UDAN flights, has been looking at filling up the gaps with other commercial sectors.
From a schedule to forget to a summer to remember, airlines could finally be out of the woods in the next couple of months. While this is still dependent on not having another wave of COVID, hoping for de-escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine and subsequent fall in oil prices, having a steady flow of passengers even at higher fares is something which has been rare in Indian skies!