Indian Aviation 2016: INDIGO the big winner, JET Airways, AIR INDIA losers

InterGlobe-owned Indigo turned out to be the big winner in Indian aviation sector in 2016, increasing its domination of the Indian skies relentlessly through the year.

It was a good year for Indian aviation as low fuel prices kept fares affordable, leading to a 23% jump in total passengers to 99.9 million; almost 10 cr passengers in the year.

Indigo started the year as the biggest airline in India, with a market share of 37% in the first quarter of the year.

Its market share rose to 38.4% in the second quarter and 39.9% in the third quarter. For the final quarter, it had a market share of 41.6%, crossing the 40% mark for the first time.

For the crucial October holiday season, Indigo had a market share of 42.6%.

For the year as a whole, it carried a total of 39.3 mln (3.93 cr) passengers. The runner up was Jet Airways + Jet Lite combination, which carried 19.0 mln passengers during the year.

No other airline was able to come anywhere close to Indigo in terms of its growth.

Most of Indigo’s gains came from the Jet group and Air India, while its private sector competitors — SpiceJet, GoAir, AirAsia and Vistara — managed to hold on to their market shares to a large extent.

While Air India’s share went from 15.4% in the first quarter to 13.3% by the last quarter, Jet Airways moved from 18.2% to 15% by the final quarter.

Both Spicejet and Go Air struggled to keep their market shares, while AirAsia and Vistara — relatively new entrants with tiny market shares — managed to make strong gains. Vistara, for example, went from 2% in the first quarter to 2.9% in the final three months.

Similarly, AirAsia — which has been extremely aggressive in recent months with discounts — went from 2.3% to 2.8% over the four quarters.


Indigo achieved the strong performance despite not managing to fill all the seats in the air. In fact, the airline had an occupancy level of around 85% or so through the various months of the year.

In contrast, SpiceJet, which saw its market share decline from 13% to 12.8% through the year, had a passenger load factor of around 92.5%, meaning that 92.5% of its seats were filled.

SpiceJet had been able to fill its seats in advance due to its aggressive discounts and sales. Go Air also had decent occupancy levels at around 87%. AirAsia, which has been rolling out one sale after the other in recent months, also saw occupancy levels of around 84%.

In October, when most airlines were making merry, Air India saw its lowest occupancy of the year, with only 71.8% of its seats filled. Vistara too saw its lowest load factor in October, at just 69.2%.


Despite being only the fourth largest airline, SpiceJet had the highest number of passengers affected by flight cancellations. Flights are canceled for various reasons such as inclement weather and commercial reasons.

The year saw disruptions in Chennai Airport due to Cyclone Vardah.

A total of 8,281 SpiceJet users were affected by flight cancellations in December.

The second most affected was Air India, with 6,396 passengers hit by cancellations. The third was Indigo at 4,969 passengers.

In terms of cancellation rates of flights, Indigo was at 2.83% for December, followed by Air India at 1.91% and Jet Airways at 1.77%. SpiceJet had a flight cancellation rate of only 1.66%.


Hyderabad was the best airport in terms of on-time performance, while Bombay was the worst.

Spicejet had the best on-time performance among all airlines, going only by timings at the four metro airports in December.

The highest number of complaints were from Air India, at 2.9 per 10,000 passengers for December. (see chart)