Indian low-cost giant IndiGo has seen its domestic capacity exceed pre-pandemic levels for the first time. The carrier has seen total domestic flights exceed pre-COVID levels in recent days as traffic rebounds. The news comes as passenger numbers quickly recover and the government lifts capacity limits.
Back to normal?
In a statement to The Times Of India, IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta spoke about the airline’s strong domestic recovery in the last few weeks. With capacity limits gone, the budget airline has been able to greatly increase total flights in the midst of the bustling festival season across India.
This has allowed IndiGo to exceed pre-COVID total flights on some peak travel days. Moreover, passenger bookings have been following suit, ensuring that load factors remain high across destinations, with Dutta saying,
“In pre-pandemic times, we had about 1,600 daily flights of which 400 to 450 were international. Currently, we have about 1,400 daily flights of which nearly 80 are international. (These numbers vary from lean to peak travel days). The peaks are looking good. The government has allowed 100% domestic capacity and our bookings at this time are 90-95% of pre-Covid levels.”
It is notable that IndiGo is still some ways away from its benchmark of 1,500-1,600 daily flights on many days. However, the lack of foreign travel means that net domestic flights are up as the carrier adds new routes domestic routes and boosts frequencies.
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While IndiGo has spent the last year taking dozens of new planes, its fleet size has remained nearly unchanged since last year. However, it’s not only about the number of aircraft, it’s all about capacity. Thanks to the induction of over 30 of the larger A321neos and a host of new A320neos, the airline now has a larger capacity than last year.
This has propelled IndiGo to its highest-ever domestic available seat kilometers (ASKs) capacity of 227 million on Monday, beating out the pre-pandemic figure of 225mn on March 16th, 2020. This was made possible by the larger fleet and more flights today due to the lack of international flying.
IndiGo’s improving traffic is reflected in its finances too. The carrier narrowed losses last quarter as capacity rose and doubled its revenues compared to last year. With the situation only improving, a profitable quarter will hopefully be around the corner for the airline.
Still some issues
Today, IndiGo is facing two main challenges, a lack of international flights and high aviation fuel prices. The latter has become particularly pressing for IndiGo, with Dutta saying,
“Crude has gone from $43 a barrel last October to $84 now. We need some relief on taxes. Fares need to reflect higher fuel price, higher operating cost (added to by the falling rupee). Fuel is a problem and fares have to be brought higher.”
Considering India has one of the highest taxes on jet fuel, airlines might be increasing fares to cover expenditure. Meanwhile, international flying is showing signs of opening up, but this process could take months.
For now, IndiGo is facing a strong recovery with some bumps along the road. With travel opening up, hopefully, airlines are on the long path back to normality.
What do you think about IndiGo’s domestic recovery? Let us know in the comments!