Airlines report sharp increase in flight delays in 2017 vs 2016

With rising passenger numbers, congestion and delays have increased at India’s major airports, going by air traffic data for the first two months of this year released by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation today.

According to them, the number of domestic air passengers in India jumped 21% on year, with January seeing an increase of 25% over last year and February 16%.

However, coming along with the increased volumes is a sharp jump in incidents of delays and cancellations.


The average on-time performance of all airlines in January 2016 at the four metros was 74.4%, which fell to 62.1% in January.

On-time performance ratings of each of the six airlines tracked for which data is available fell in January 2017 when compared with the same month last year.

Similarly, the average on-time performance of these six airlines fell to 72.8% in February this year from 81.47% a year earlier. Only SpiceJet was able to report an improvement in its performance in February, while the other five airlines reported poorer scores this year.


The deterioration is also visible in the number of passengers affected by delays that airlines have to report every month, which rose sharply this year as more flights got delayed.

In February last year, IndiGo — the largest airline in the domestic sector — reported 21,660 passengers as having been impacted by delays of over 2 hours. In the same month this year, the number went up to 36,604.

The trend was visible in January too, when the number increased to 88,785 passengers compared to 11,782 in the same month last year.

IndiGo was not alone in reporting a sharp increase in such numbers.

For SpiceJet, the number of passengers delayed by more than 2 hours rose to 12,597 in February this year from 5,245 last year. For Jet, it rose to 6,785 passengers from 1,312 last year.

Similarly, 33,560 of Air India’s domestic passengers were impacted by delays of over 2 hours in February, up from 24,852 last year.

Air India OTP at airports (Feb 2017)

The reason for the sharp rise in delayed flights is not clear. The government has maintained that India’s current aviation infrastructure is enough to cater to the number of people taking to the skies.

It is possible that bottlenecks at one or two airports may be causing a spillover effect on other sectors. Mumbai and Delhi airports are notorious for flight delays due to the high number of services to these cities.

In case of Vistara, for example, the airline had a 66.3% on-time performance at the Mumbai airport, 72.8% at Bangalore, 73.4% at Delhi and 84.5% at Hyderabad airport.

According the DGCA’s projections, domestic air travelers are likely to increase 12% per year over the next three years, to touch 285 million by 2019-20. Airports Authority of India has made plans for investment of Rs. 17,500 crores in five years up to 2020-21 for upgrading airports and its navigation services infrastructure.