IndiGo has a problem – it is constantly late. This has not always been the case, but over the past six months, India’s largest airline by market share has not been able to beat its rivals in accuracy, monthly data released by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation shows.
Before April, IndiGo was the most punctual airline in domestic flights for February and March, with 95.4% and 93.9% of flights arriving at their destinations on time. Since then, however, Tata group airlines AirAsia India and Vistara have skyrocketed in time.
Vistara was the most on-time airline with an on-time performance of 91%, followed by AirAsia India at 89.8%, Air India at 87.1% and IndiGo at 84.1%, according to September data from the DGCA.
IndiGo, which has a 57.7% market share, says punctuality is one of its three pillars, apart from offering low fares and hassle-free services. A snapshot of monthly punctuality data over the past five years shows that 2021 was IndiGo’s best year as it was the most punctual airline in 10 out of 12 months.
However, it fared poorly in 2020, 2019 and 2018, posting the best accuracy rate in just 11 out of 35 months. In 2017, it secured the top position in accuracy in eight of the 12 months.
According to the DGCA, the main reason behind the delay in departure of the planes was given as reactionary. Jet lag is industry jargon for late departure due to late arrival of incoming aircraft. This was the reason for 68% of late departures in September. Most of the delays occurred at the Mumbai airport.
Sure, it’s hard to compare Indigo with other airlines because of its sheer size, which makes it a much busier airline with the largest fleet of aircraft in the country. The airline has seen several factors impact its on-time performance over the past six months, three people with knowledge of the matter said.
“The primary problem is that IndiGo, being the largest airline, also has maximum connectivity with limited airports like Delhi and Mumbai. There are 150-200 daily departures from these busy airports, so a single delay can cause a chain reaction. Airlines also suffer on punctuality during the monsoon season due to diversions and late departures,” said one of the people quoted above.
Unrest among several flight attendant employees over compensation led to a drop in their punctuality in July, the analyst said.
Another person said that the DGCA considers a flight delayed if it takes off more than 15 minutes from the time the plane leaves the bay. At the same time, Indigo operates from three terminals in Delhi and operates 1,600 flights per day, compared to far fewer flights by its competitors.
“Sometimes the availability of engines and spare parts also played a role. If during the pre-flight inspection it is found that the aircraft requires replacement of a spare part and if it is not available, it also leads to delay as another aircraft has to be arranged to rectify such a situation,” said a third person.
While SpiceJet consistently outperforms the industry in terms of passenger load or capacity utilization, it also struggles with punctuality throughout the year. It ranked fifth in the punctuality rankings with an on-time performance of 78.4% in September, followed by Alliance Air and GoFirst.