Commercial air travel in the U.S. grew only slightly last year, staying in line with the slow recovery of the overall economy. Domestic and international capacity expressed in available seat miles (ASMs), a measure of airline industry output, increased by just 0.1 percent, to 995 billion, following a 3.4-percent capacity increase in 2011. System wide, revenue passenger miles (RPMs) increased by 0.9 percent, to 822 billion, and passenger enplanements rose 0.8 percent, to 736.7 million.
The Indian government’s new budget, released on February 28, brought little relief for the country’s ailing air transport sector, although the industry awaits a possible announcement of some reduction in high aviation fuel taxes. In particular, the budget documents made no mention of hoped-for fiscal support for India’s emerging regional airline industry.
The withdrawal of Kingfisher Airlines’ domestic airport slots and international flying rights by India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation on February 25 could make a phased restart of the carrier even more challenging. Meanwhile, authorities have de-registered 13 of the 37 aircraft parked in India, but airports haven’t allowed lessors to claim their assets until Kingfisher pays pending dues totaling $72 million.
“[Kingfisher has] to give some guarantee [to pay], said Airports Authority of India chairman V.P. Agrawal. “Bank checks worth $21 million…bounced. A legal issue is going on.”
Malaysia’s AirAsia has unveiled plans to launch a new domestic airline in India by the fourth quarter of 2013. Under the terms of a deal announced on February 21, the largest low-fare carrier in Asia will hold a 49-percent stake–the maximum holding permitted by the Indian government for a foreign investor–in the new airline. AirAsia is partnering with major Indian industrial groups Tata (to carry a 30-percent stake) and Telestra Tradeplace (21 percent).
India’s fastest growing and most successful airline–budget carrier IndiGo–has become the first victim of an October ruling by the country’s aircraft acquisition committee governing the number and kind of aircraft imported by airlines to encourage regional connectivity to smaller towns. In November the committee, led by civil aviation minister Ajit Singh, cleared for import only five of the 16 Airbus A320-series aircraft Indigo wanted to acquire.
India lost 9 percent of its airline seat capacity as a result of Kingfisher suspending operations since October 1, 2012, when its 66-aircraft fleet was grounded, according to Dinesh Keskar, Boeing’s senior sales vice president for Asia Pacific and India.
Europe’s highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg, confirmed in a ruling last Thursday that airlines based in the EU carry liability for accommodation and other “necessary, appropriate and reasonable” costs incurred by passengers in the event of long delays, even for disruptions beyond their control.
Online charter booking portal Victor aims to increase available capacity almost tenfold. As of the end of last year, its site showed approximately 1,300 available private jet seats at any given time and it wants to boost this number to approximately 10,000 seats by the end of this year’s first quarter.
India’s business aviation sector is facing a new obstacle to growth, with civil aviation minister Ajit Singh now insisting on giving final approval for every aircraft imported into the country. Before October, aircraft acquisition requests from airlines, charter companies and private individuals were dealt with by senior government officials on the aircraft acquisition committee, which met each month to clear backlogged requests.
Styling itself as “Africa’s first pan-African low-cost carrier,” Fastjet certainly looks like an airline in a hurry. Having opened its base in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, only late last November, it now plans to launch operations in Kenya, Angola and Ghana this year, starting with five Airbus A319s it aims to acquire during the first six months of its expansion and 15 within a year. It also hopes to benefit from the wreckage of South Africa’s low-cost sector with its pending acquisition of defunct 1Time Airline.