India needs a better On-Time Performance monitoring system

The year 2017 has been turbulent for airlines in India on the On Time Performance (OTP) front. Early this year, two staffers of Mumbai International Airport (MIAL) were suspended for alleged fudging of data. While news reports indicated the regulator setting up a committee, neither did we see the report nor did we hear about the airlines which were involved.

Crippling infrastructure at major and even secondary airports has led to delays for flights leading to cascading effects on the airline schedule. With utilization across airlines at an all-time high, the last flights of day are further delayed leading to irate passengers across airports.

With over 18500 weekly scheduled flights amongst major carriers in the country (Excluding Trujet& Zoom Air), this article looks at how many flights are actually tracked, which airlines have maximum flights tracked and can there be a way which is far more inclusive than the current one to measure the OTP.

Before looking at the stunning facts, it is important to clarify that this data is based on the schedule put out by Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on its website. The flights which are scheduled to start at the beginning of the winter schedule are considered and those which are scheduled to start later in the schedule are not part of this study. There could be flights which are approved but not started by the airline. They form part of it since there wasn’t an easy way to check each and every flight for each airline. International connectors of Air India have not been considered since the schedule by the regulator does not list them.

How is the tracking done currently?

Until a few years ago, the airline used to report their OTP to the regulator. This system has since changed and the monthly report is based on the OTP at 4 private airports – Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Most airlines have sizable chunk of operations at Chennai & Kolkata – but these operations are not considered for the calculation of OTP.

Airports also declare the departure and arrival OTP for airlines operating at these airports. DGCA does not consider the OTP for a few airlines, for instance AirAsia India – which operates to three of the four airports, considered for OTP, its performance, is not reported by DGCA in its monthly summary.

Key findings

  • 5% of all flights are across major airlines are neither tracked at departure or arrival
  • Only 16% of flights are tracked at both departure and arrival (Flights between the four private airports)
  • 4% flights are tracked for departure OTP
  • 2% flights are tracked for arrival OTP

OTP Tracking

Impact on airlines and passengers

With a network mix in favor of metros and a large hub at Delhi, Vistara is the hardest hit. The airline has 38% of its flights between the airports for which OTP is tracked and just 6% of flights are such that neither arrival nor departure is tracked. (Flights between Srinagar & Jammu, Kolkata – Port Blair). This means that over 93% of flights of Vistara are tracked at origin or destination or both.

On the other side of the spectrum is IndiGo where 35.6% of its flights are neither tracked at origin or destination. This is due to the fact that the airline has a very large presence at Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Jaipur – all of which are airports operated by Airports Authority of India (AAI) and do not contribute to the tracking of OTP.

To get a different perspective, approximately 2450 flights per week of IndiGo are not tracked for either arrival or departure. Vistara, AirAsia India and Go Air operate approximately 676, 750 and 1490 flights respectively, per week.

AirAsia India sees only 10.5% of its flights tracked at both origin & destination airports but a sizable presence at Bengaluru and Delhi means that over 70% of its flights are tracked at either origin or destination and only 18% flights are not tracked at either. The numbers are similar for Go Air.

Locked in a battle for highest OTP with IndiGo, Spicejet which is growing rapidly at Tier II and Tier III cities sees 29% of its operations not tracked. National carrier Air India sees this number at 23%. However, the airline operates a lot of flights as “International Connectors” and thus do not form a part of this analysis.

What is the solution?

I am sure airlines would be more than willing to have as many airports as possible for the calculation of OTP. Spicejet advertises their OTP at specific airports on their website. However, this data is not backed by the regulator.

Similarly, IndiGo and Vistara regularly advertise their OTP in print as well as social media. But this data which is released by the regulator does not cover all the airports but just the departures out of four private airports.

These four metros for which the data is releases accounted for 51% passengers in the last financial year.

Half the passengers across the country do not know which airlines are flying on time at their respective airports and this includes the airports of metro cities like Kolkata and Chennai.

Can this data be expanded and can Air Sewa be the solution? While the web application fails more often than not to show the flight status, the next version which is under development could well incorporate an additional recording of data of the metro airports and also get data from other major airports in the AAI stable.

Conclusion

If OTP is being calculated at four metros and for flights departing at these airports, only 43% percentage of total flights are calculated, reported and then used as advertisement by airlines.

There is an urgent need for correction and inclusion of more airports.

Can we be open to advertise the top 10 most delayed flights at airport level at each of the major 30 or 40 airports in the country? Can these top airports have a screen dedicated to show OTP for the last month at that airport?

There certainly is no harm to be more transparent, when there are so many fights, claims, counter claims and marketing around OTP. At the same time when less than 50% of flights are being tracked for OTP, there is no reason to have much hoopla over this one parameter.

OTP 2017

 

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