India’s aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has approved the winter schedule for 2021. While the total number of flights has dipped a little compared to 2019, Vistara has seen a significant increase among the national players. IndiGo, despite a slight decrease in the numbers, still retains its peak position while SpiceJet’s total flights will be down quite a bit this winter. Let’s find out more.
Tata-backed carriers increase flights
The winter schedule will begin on October 31st and last until March 26th next year. Based on the submissions by scheduled domestic carriers, the DGCA has approved 22,287 weekly domestic flights this winter.
Compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019, which saw 23,307 flights, this winter season will see the total departures come down by 4.4%. What’s interesting to note is that Vistara and AirAsia India – both Tata-owned airlines – have bucked the trend and increased their departures this year.
Vistara will see the biggest jump among the national carriers with 1,675 departures compared to 1,376 in 2019 – an increase of 21.73%. AirAsia India has also planned more flights this winter – 1,393 compared to 1,345 in 2019 – a jump of 3.57%.
IndiGo still No. 1, SpiceJet sees the biggest drop
The data released by the DGCA reveals that all other national-level carriers have reduced their winter departures this year. IndiGo, despite seeing a marginal dip of 0.65%, still commands a comfortable lead over other airlines with 10,243 weekly flights.
The soon-to-be-privatized Air India will operate 2,053 flights – 8.92% less than its 2019 schedule of 2,254 flights. Go First will see a tiny dip of 0.78% this winter season with 2,290 departures.
However, the biggest drop in the schedule comes from SpiceJet. The LCC has planned to operate 2,995 weekly flights, which is 30.61% less than what it flew in 2019 when it operated 4,316 flights.
In contrast, the regional carriers have all increased their flights. At 137 departures, Bengaluru-based Star Air will see a 120.97% increase in its flight schedule compared to 62 flights in 2019. Hyderabad-based TruJet will have 450 weekly flights in the coming months – up by 1.35% from its 2019 schedule. Flybig, which started operations in 2020, will have 116 weekly flights this winter.
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Airlines hoping for business recovery
The winter season is usually the busiest for Indian domestic carriers. Demand in travel picks up around the festive season in October and November and continues to reflect in the winter schedule. These months also see an uptick in leisure travel, with many Indians splurging on cross-country flights.
Over the last few months, air traffic in India has grown steadily, with passengers getting more and more comfortable with flying as COVID cases in India decline. Looking at this, the Indian government removed restrictions on domestic flights, allowing carriers to return to pre-COVID scheduled capacity.
The DGCA also highlighted this change when announcing the winter schedule, stating,
“…Winter Schedule 2021 has been approved without capacity restrictions as submitted by the scheduled domestic airlines.”
The government will also review the situation again and possibly reduce the fare band further, which at the moment applies to flights booked within 15 days of travel.
Hopefully, the COVID situation in India will continue to improve, and carriers can make the most out of their winter schedule.