Improvement in load factors, coupled with an increase in seat capacity after Jet’s slots were allotted to low-cost airlines, has resulted in an increase in daily passenger traffic.
Passenger traffic at the Mumbai and Delhi airports is picking up after witnessing a fall last year, the first such decline since 2008.
The primary reason for the dip in annual passenger traffic was the closure of Jet Airways.
In Mumbai, the airline’s closure on April 17 led to a reduction of 142 flights a day for about two months.
But improvement in load factors, coupled with an increase in seat capacity after Jet’s slots were allotted to low-cost airlines, has resulted in a 4 per cent increase in daily passenger traffic over past two months, sources said.
Mumbai International Airport executives expect growth to continue through the year.
On an average, the airport handled 142,000 passengers each day in November and December, which was 4 per cent higher on a year-on-year (YoY) basis.
Delhi airport, too, has seen monthly traffic grow since October and expects it to rise further as better navigation procedures have resulted in an increase in daily flight movements.
At present, Delhi is handling around 1,300 flights daily, which is around 100 movements more compared to last January.
“The good news is the increasing number of aircraft available and low fares. We have 646 aircraft flying in the country now.
"Three ATR aircraft were added to the fleet on Friday. Demand will pick up.
"It is just a matter of time. Hopefully, we will be back to double digit growth in 2020," said Arun Kumar, Director General of Civil Aviation.
The suspension of Jet Airways operations in April hit passenger traffic at Mumbai and Delhi - the two busiest airports in the country.
The airports were also hubs for Jet Airways. According to aviation consultancy CAPA, Jet accounted for 28-30 per cent of all domestic and international seat capacity in Mumbai and 14-16 per cent in Delhi.
Nationwide domestic air traffic was hit, too, as it grew only 3.8 per cent after four years of double digit growth.
Annual passengers handled in Delhi fell to 68 million in 2019 from 69 million in 2018.
In Mumbai traffic dipped to 47 million from 49 million in the same period.
Sources said Jet’s slots in Mumbai were allotted to other airlines by July and airlines began utilising them around same time.
In Delhi utilisation was not as quick.
Around 70-75 per cent of slots in Mumbai have been taken by no-frills airlines, which operate all economy Airbus or Boeing planes.
While Jet Airways operated Boeing 737 with 168 seats, other low cost airlines operate planes with 180-189 seats.
“The number of flights handled daily is around 960, which is back to the levels seen before Jet closure, but now there is 3-4 per cent increase in seats deployed by airlines.
"Also, load factors of airlines have improved resulting in increase in passengers at Mumbai in last two months,” sources said.
Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) said closure of Jet Airways coupled with grounding of Airbus A320Neo and Boeing 737 aircraft and closure of Pakistan airspace affected flights and led to reduction in traffic.
“During calendar year 2019 IndiGo, SpiceJet, and GoAir faced issues because grounding of their aircrafts by the regulator.
"The closure of Jet Airways, which had 16 per cent share in Delhi impacted traffic.
"Cross-border tension between India and Pakistan prompted the latter to shut its airspace for India.
"This affected operations to and from Europe, the US and the Gulf countries.
"This resulted in a few airlines temporarily closing operations on some international routes,” a DIAL spokesperson said.