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India's domestic aviation capacity soars beyond pre-pandemic level

By Surajeet Das Gupta
December 12, 2023 16:26 IST
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The growth in India's domestic aviation capacity in calendar year 2023 (CY23) was the sixth highest among 20 major domestic markets, compared to the pre-pandemic year of CY19.


Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters

The domestic capacity in the country surpassed the pre-pandemic level seen in CY19 and was up 5 per cent in CY23.

It trails Mexico, Columbia, China, Vietnam, and Spain, which have shown higher growth, according to data shared in a seminar organised by global travel data provider OAG on global aviation trends in 2023.


The growth in Indian domestic capacity is higher than the growth in capacity in Italy (4 per cent), the US (2 per cent), and Brazil, which managed to revert to 2019 levels.

Many other countries such as Australia, Japan, Türkiye, Saudi Arabia, Canada, South Korea, France, Thailand and Malaysia are yet to reach their pre-pandemic level.

The top 20 domestic markets, according to OAG, account for 88 per cent of the global domestic travel capacity with nine countries now reaching 2019 levels.

Globally, overall capacity based on seats is still in the negative and lower by 3.7 per cent in CY23 over CY19.

In terms of frequency, it is down by 9.1 per cent between the same years.

OAG predicts that capacity in the first quarter (Q1) 2024 is estimated to be 2.9 per cent more than 2019, with domestic up 4.6 per cent and international reaching the same levels as 2019 in the same quarter.

The positive expectation of the growth of the Indian market is reflected in the order books of the top 15 global airlines.Indigo is top of the charts with orders for nearly 1,000 mostly narrow-bodied planes.

Air India is in the fourth spot with orders for around 470 planes.

The two carriers account for nearly a tenth of the total orders placed by global airlines for delivery.

United Airlines and Southwest Airlines are in second and third place with aircraft orders touching 800, and over 500 respectively.

Globally, 80 per cent of the total order for 16,214 planes was for narrow-bodied aircraft, while 52 per cent of the narrow-bodied orders were for the Airbus A-320 series (320 and 321) and another 36 per cent for the B737 Max.Indigo’s Airbus order was the largest — a combination of A320s and A321s.

OAG has also looked at how airlines have fared on operating margins during the challenging pandemic Q3 of 2021.IndiGo came in 15 out of 66 airlines with an operating margin of 20.7 per cent.

At the top was Ryanair with an operating margin of 34.6 per cent.

Turkish Airlines was in fifth place with an operating margin of 25 per cent.

Other airlines were much below such as Singapore Airlines (17.1 per cent), Lufthansa (14.3 per cent), United Airlines (12.2 per cent), China Airlines (5.2 per cent) and JetBlue (-6.5 per cent).

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Surajeet Das Gupta
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