The Northern Summer 2022 schedule came into effect on March 27, 2022. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) approved a schedule that has 25,309 weekly departures. This roughly translates to approximately 3,615 daily departures. This also includes the 355 weekly departures of TruJet, which has been facing turbulent times.
However, the regulator did not upload the schedule of TruJet, as the airline has once again suspended operations. This takes the daily departures to 3,565.
On March 27, 2022, airlines in India saw 2,742 departures, which is 76.91 percent of the approved schedule. While the flights went up over the previous day, the compliance went down from 81 percent the previous day, when 3,135 daily flights were approved as part of the Winter Schedule.
IndiGo, the largest carrier in the country by fleet and market share, proposes to fly to 74 destinations. The airline launched flights to Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh and Pantnagar in Uttarakhand as the 72nd and 73rd destinations. The airline has approvals to fly to two more destinations -- Dharamshala and Bhuj, taking the approved station count to 75.
No other airline is operating as many stations as IndiGo. The airline, which has been cautious in its expansion in its early days, with the induction of ATR 72-600, has seen a rapid increase in number of stations.
Government-owned Alliance Air comes in next with approvals to fly to 60 destinations. The airline has seen a major upheaval in its network from the previous schedule.
It has approvals to fly to Coimbatore, Dibrugarh, Indore, Keshod, Nagpur, Shirdi, Tezu and Zero, but at the same time, it won't be operating to Vizag, Varanasi, AMritsar, Hubli, Kandla, Bhavnagar and Tirupati. While the airline has 18 ATR 72-600 aircraft, and it has plans to induct two each of ATR 42-600 and Do-228, it has spread itself too thin.
Air India, now a TATA group airline, is making minimal changes to its network. The airline continues with the same number of destinations as in the last schedule. For Vistara, the joint venture between the TATAs and the SIA group, the number of destinations remain the same but the airline has vacated Jodhpur, which sees higher traffic in winters and added Agartala.
The airline is yet to announce services to Agartala, from where it intends to connect to Guwahati as per the approved schedule. AirAsia India, which was to be 100-percent owned by TATAs by the end of March, will continue operations to 17 stations – the same as the previous schedule.
With this, the TATA group seems to have opted for continuity over anything else. It is also an indication that it will take time to integrate schedules, and the airline is putting its best foot forward as a group.
SpiceJet, which has seen a quantum jump in approved flights over the last schedule, had the worst compliance last season for operating its approved flights. It is returning to Pondicherry and starting at Pantnagar. The airline, though, has pulled out of Kozhikode and Bhavnagar.
The only operator of regional jets in the country, Star Air, will continue with 16 stations. So would FlyBig, which recently acquired two ATR aircraft to supplement its fleet of its single ATR, which has been operating since inception.
This points to the challenges that regional operators in India face. While both operators have a significant number of their routes under the subsidised RCS-UDAN, the vast expanse for a small fleet spirals the costs that are needed to operate and puts sustenance in jeopardy.
From Paramount to Air Costa and Air Carnival to Air Pegasus, both regional jet and turboprop operators have failed at regular intervals in India.
Airports that lost connectivity and those with just a single airline
Bhavnagar, Bidar, Vidyanagar, Jalgaon, Jaisalmer, and Salem have lost connectivity over the previous schedule. While Bidar, Vidyanagar, Jalgaon and Salem were TruJet monopoly stations, Jaisalmer is a seasonal station for airlines and Bhavnagar has seen both SpiceJet and Alliance Air vacate their flights.
This puts the spotlight on all such airports where only a single airline operates and either the suspension of that airline, or a commercial decision to discontinue the route would mean the airport getting disconnected from the air map of the country.
There are 27 airports in the country where only one airline operates. A majority of those are by Alliance Air, which has the approval to 12 such stations, followed by SpiceJet, which has six. IndiGo has four such stations while FlyBig and Air India have two stations each with Star Air operating to one such destination.
Hyderabad is the only airport in the country where all nine airlines fly. Delhi, the largest airport in the country, sees seven airlines operate, with FlyBig staying away from the capital city and Star Air operating to nearby Hindon. Mumbai, the financial capital, and Bengaluru have eight operators each, with FlyBig not operating to these airports.While schedule approvals are aplenty, the next few weeks will see how many new stations actually take off for all airlines. The summer this year may seem harsh, but it could soften the blow for airline balance sheets as passengers start flying again.