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Exclusive: 42 per cent more flyers had bad experience in 2024

Updated on: 23 May,2024 07:03 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Prasun Choudhari |

mid-day finds that despite marginal rise in domestic air travellers, number of people affected by delays has risen substantially

Exclusive: 42 per cent more flyers had bad experience in 2024

Aviation experts said there are several reasons for flight delays. Representation pic

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Exclusive: 42 per cent more flyers had bad experience in 2024

Despite a mere 3.82 per cent increase in the number of domestic air passengers, the number of people affected by flight delays and cancellations has surged by 42.17 per cent between January and April, as compared to the same period last year. This trend has raised concerns among DGCA officials and prompted aviation experts to investigate the underlying causes.

DGCA raises concerns

DGCA officials have expressed serious concerns over this development. According to data provided by a senior DGCA official exclusively to mid-day, 7,79,861 passengers were affected by delays and cancellations between January and April 2023. However, this number skyrocketed to 11,08,759 in the same period of 2024. “The increase in the number of affected passengers is significant, especially considering there is just a 3.82 per cent increase in passenger traffic.” said the official.

According to the official, in the first four months of 2023, the domestic passenger count stood at 504.37 lakh. This year, the figure rose to 523.63 lakh, marking a tiny 3.82 per cent increase. “The relatively higher number of disruptions highlights a concerning trend in the aviation sector. We have received more than 3,000 complaints in just four months of 2024 which is more than 50 per cent as compared to the same timeframe in 2023. If we use the designated formula to calculate the percentage increase in the number of complaints, the figure is staggering 103.98 per cent which is much more concerning,” the official said.

“We cannot compare the data of 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 with the rest of the data considering COVID, during the same period in 2018, a total of 8,01,028 passengers were affected due to delays and cancellations, which in comparison has increased by 38.42 per cent in 2024. In 2018, the industry saw 453.02 lakh passengers during the period. There has been a 15.59 per cent rise in travellers in 2024 as compared to 2018,” he said.

What aviation experts say

Aviation experts have pointed to several potential factors contributing to the situation. A senior airline staffer who is also a flight instructor told mid-day that adverse weather conditions, technical glitches, operational inefficiencies, and staffing challenges within airlines play a significant role in flights getting delayed or cancelled.

Capt Mohan Ranganathan, another aviation expert, said, “If there are delays and cancellations, the refund rules are loaded towards the airlines and not towards the passenger’s benefit. All the rules that the ministry and DGCA have formed have several grey areas which the airlines can exploit to deny repayments or refunds. Lately, the staff of some airlines have also become rude. As per DGCA data, the maximum number of delays in 2024 has been caused by recreational reasons. Recreational delay refers to the late arrival of the incoming aircraft, connecting flight, crew, or cargo from a previous flight. Since one aircraft flies multiple legs in a day, one delayed leg causes the next leg to delay, creating a cascading effect where the amount of delay increases with each leg.”

According to Capt Ranganathan, various operational reasons like a delay in refuelling or unavailability of a gate at an airport can also cause a delay. “Also, airlines take the liberty to display an extended targeted off-block time (TOBT) in which way, they can later claim that the flight was on time even if it was delayed. This is another major reason for the increase in the number of affected passengers,” he added.

Travellers vs complaints

Domestic air travellers (Jan-Apr)
Year    Total flyers
2018    453.02 lakh
2023    504.37 lakh
2024    523.63 lakh
Percentage increase 
(2023 vs 2024)    3.82%
Travellers affected (Jan-Apr)
Year    Flyers affected
2018    8,01,028
2023    7,79,798
2024    11,08,759
Percentage increase 
(2023 vs 2024)    42.17%

Complaints registered with DGCA (Jan-Apr)
Year    Total complaints
2023    1,484
2024    3,027
Percentage increase 
(2023 vs 2024)    103.98%

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