Air India Express, the no frills airline that is part of the Air India family, was the only one to make money in the financial year gone by, while others lost between 3 paise to 2.88 rupees for every kilometer that their passengers traveled during the year.
As expected, the biggest loser among the big airlines was Air India, which sustained an operating loss of about 2.88 rupees for each km traveled by its passengers.
It was followed by by Vistara, which lost Rs 1.33 per km per passenger, and Air Asia, which lost 96 paise per km per passenger.
Among the three established private airlines, Go Air was the least profitable, losing 73 paise per km per passenger, followed by SpiceJet, which lost 17 paise per km per passenger.
Indigo, which accounts for close to about half the total passengers flown by airlines in India, had a much better performance in the year gone by, losing only just 3 paise per km for each of their passengers.
Looked at another way, Vistara had an average operating loss of Rs 1,556 rupees per passenger, followed by Air Asia at Rs 964 per passenger and Go Air at Rs 714.
SpiceJet lost Rs 151 per passenger, while Indigo lost just Rs 25.
Interestingly, only one major airline actually made money flying its passengers during the year ended March — Air India Express.
Air India Express made a profit of a whopping Rs 17.29 per km every time one of its passengers traveled 1 km on its plane.
It is not a new record either.
Air India Express, which gets a large part of its revenue from flights to the Middle East, has been profitable for several years, even as its sister airline Air India has been wallowing in losses.
In fact, even excluding the Jet Airways and Jet Lite, the total aviation sector in India lost an eye watering Rs 70,880 cr in its operations in the year ended March.
Out of the 70,880 cr, 43,301 cr was lost by just one airline — Air India. The next biggest loss was posted by Go Air, followed by new entrants Vistara and Air Asia.
The losses are due to a rise in fuel costs, and a softness in the economy that has limited airlines’ ability to pass on higher costs to the consumers.
Against an estimated Rs 40,000 cr lost by private airlines in India in FY19 at the operating level, they had earned a profit of Rs 21,589 cr in the previous year and Rs 17,195 cr in the year before.
FY16 was the best year for private airlines as they were able to earn a combined operating profit of Rs 35,864 cr during the year due to benign fuel costs.
Despite the losses, airlines continued to expand their business in India. A total of 14.03 cr domestic air tickets were sold in the country during FY19, up from 12.33 cr in the previous year and 10.37 cr in the year before.
However, the strongest growth in traffic was also posted by Air Asia. The company reporting an astounding 55% jump in passenger kilometers during FY19. Against 4.75 billion passenger km sold in FY18, the company sold 7.35 billion passenger km in FY19.
Vistara was second in terms of growth in passenger kilometers carried, while Indigo was third among the major private airlines in terms of growth.