Airline delays in India

So DNA put out a news report proclaiming “Air India, IndiGo flyers worst hit by flight delays in January: DGCA“. The way the headline has been written, it appears as if Air India and Indigo are equally bad in terms of delayed flights. And an innumerate reader or journalist would actually believe that number, since the article states that 96,000 people were inconvenienced by Air India’s delays, and 75,000 odd by Indigo’s delays – both are of the same order of magnitude.

However, by comparing raw numbers thus, an important point that this news report misses out is that Indigo flies twice as many passengers as Air India. For the same period as the above data (January 2015), DGCA data (it’s all in this one big clunky PDF) shows that while about 11.65 lakh passengers flew Air India, about 22.76 lakh passengers flew Indigo – almost twice the number. So on a percentage basis, Indigo is only half as bad as Air India.


The graph above shows the number of passengers delayed as a proportion of the number of passengers flown, and this indicates that Indigo is in clear second place as an offender (joined by tiny AirAsia). Yet, to bracket it with Air India (by not taking proportions) indicates sheer innumeracy on the part of the journalist (unnamed in the article)!

I’m not surprised by the numbers, though. The thing with Indigo (and AirAsia) is that the business model depends upon quick turnaround of planes, and thus there is little slack between flights. In winters, morning flights (especially from North India) get delayed because of fog and the lack of slack means the delays cascade leading to massive delays. Hence there is good reason to not fly Indigo in winter (and for Indigo to build slack into its winter schedules). Interestingly, the passenger load factor (number of passengers carried as a function of capacity) for Indigo is 85%, which is interestingly lower than Jet Airways (a so-called “full service carrier”)’ s 87%. And newly launched full service Vistara operated at only 45% in January!

We are in for interesting times in the Indian aviation industry.

4 thoughts on “Airline delays in India”

  1. Wouldn’t expected time of delay be a better measure.?
    This DGCA/DNA article only talks about >2hr delays. Maybe there could be many 1-2 hr delay incidents.
    Maybe Bulk of Indigo’s flights are <30 min delays, and bulk of Air India flights are 30mins-2hr delays.

    Also does this mean that if load factor is high, then even with a lower "expected time of delay" per flight, Indigo will end up pissing off more number of passengers – which leads to an allegiance-shifting.
    Basically which is worse :
    1. Less number of people experiencing extremely bad service
    2. More number of people experiencing mediocre service

    1. Ideally we need to construct a “pain function” – function of the pain caused to passenger as a result of delayed flight. This pain function measures the pain caused as a function of the delay in minutes. This is ideally superlinear – a 1 hour delay causes more than twice the pain as a 30 minute delay.

      And so we get the actual delays of each flight along with the number of passengers in each flight and then multiply it by this pain function and then we’ll know.

      but then who will give the data for all that?

  2. The article seems to be very Air India sympathetic – after having awarded AI the title for most delays, it goes on to sympathize with AI …..”while Air India provided facilities such as refreshments, refunds (where passenger desired), rescheduling of flights besides giving a compensation of Rs 1.04 crore to the aggrieved flyers, IndiGo provided only refreshments to the passengers of the delayed flights”. As though Air India is the champion of the delayed flier.

    I’m not sure what the difference between “rescheduling” and “delayed flights” is. I guess if the airline gives up on a delayed flight and asks the passenger to go away , come another day it counts as “rescheduled”? Or is it the passenger who is unwilling to wait beyond a point and exercises an option to reschedule? Either way, this data shows IndiGo has managed the second highest number of delayed passengers without rescheduling or cancelling their flights – which speaks volumes about their operations + CRM!

    1. Agree. And too much technical jargon in terms of delaying and rescheduling.

      Indigo is a kickass airline in terms of their ops. No wonder they have 36% (yes 36%) of the market!

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