No longer a force in India? Kingfisher slips from first to fifth in domestic market in just four months’s publisher talked to Kingfisher Chairman Vijay Mallya and the airline’s CEO Sanjay Aggarwal in the hope of providing first hand insight for this article. In fact, all Hogan contributed were these photos: “They would only talk about whisky, they wouldn’t even talk about motor racing” bemoaned our investigative boss. Indeed, Mallya's Force India F1 team, referred to in our headline, has also been in trouble, and recently acquired new shareholders to become Sahara Force India. Virgin’s Branson and Air Asia’s Tony Fernandes also collect F1 teams.

Although only launched in May 2005, Kingfisher Airlines, guided by the industrial tycoon Vijay Mallya, grew quickly, both organically and through the acquisition of Air Deccan, to become the biggest single carrier in the Indian domestic market in less than four years. However, since the start of 2009, it has seen its market share fall by half from 28% in January 2009 to just 14% in November 2011.

Domestic market share of Indian airlines Share of domestic passenger: 1/2009 - 11/2011

Source: Airports Authority of India, DGCA

Despite its gradual loss of market share as recently as August, it was still just ahead of IndiGo and Jet Airways, but the latest figures for November show that it has fallen behind both of these carriers as well as Air India and SpiceJet.

Load factors consistently above 80%

While rumours abound about the carrier’s future it should be noted that during 2011 (January to October), the airline achieved an impressive 81.5% load factor on domestic services, compared with IndiGo (82.0%), SpiceJet (74.9%), Jet Airways (73.0%) and Air India (70.7%).

International services to eight destinations in eight countries

By acquiring Air Deccan, Kingfisher was able to side-step the requirement of having to operate domestically for five years before being allowed to start international services. As a result, the first international service between Bangalore and London Heathrow launched in September 2008, followed in January 2009 by Mumbai to London Heathrow.

The airline’s current international network comprises 17 routes to eight airports in eight different countries. Colombo is served from four Indian airports while Bangkok and Dubai are both served from three airports; Hong Kong and London Heathrow each from two, though the frontier-busting Bangalore – London route is no longer served.

Country Airport Served from (launch date)
Bangladesh Dhaka (DAC) Kolkata (May 2009)
Hong Kong Hong Kong (HKG) Delhi (Apr 2010), Mumbai (Sep 2009)
Nepal Kathmandu (KTM) Delhi (Apr 2010)
Singapore Singapore (SIN) Mumbai (Sep 2009)
Sri Lanka Colombo (CMB) Chennai (Jan 2009), Kochi (Sep 2011), Thiruvananthapuram (Oct 2011), Tiruchirapilli (Oct 2011)
Thailand Bangkok (BKK) Delhi (Apr 2010), Kolkata (Aug 2009), Mumbai (Apr 2010)
UAE Dubai (DXB) Bangalore (Jun 2009), Delhi (Apr 2010), Mumbai (Apr 2010)
United Kingdom London Heathrow (LHR) Delhi (Mar 2010), Mumbai (Jan 2009)
Source: Kingfisher Airlines, new route database

Over 10% of Kingfisher’s passengers are currently flying on international services and in the first 10 months of 2011, over one million passengers were carried on international flights at a load factor of 75.5%. Despite only operating a modest number of international routes they currently account for just over 40% of the airline’s capacity, as measured in ASKs (Available Seat Kilometres).

This week’s unflattering financial coverage of Kingfisher Airlines in the Financial Times.

This week’s unflattering financial coverage. Meanwhile, it was confirmed at Christmas that Kingfisher would join the oneworld alliance in February. We at used to think oneworld was the slightly boring but solid alliance grouping. But this year, besides Kingfisher, oneworld will also welcome airberlin and Malaysia Airlines, none of whom are what you might call solidly profitable airlines.


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