Guwahati Airport experiences rapid growth, doubts over it continuing; IndiGo #1 carrier
Guwahati is the largest city in Assam in north-east India, one of the areas of India renowned for its tea production. Given its location, the city is closer to Bangladesh’s capital Dacca (278 kilometres) than it is to Delhi (1,458 kilometres). Situated on the Brahmaputra River, the Tier II port city is one of the fastest growing in India, with around one million people living in the metro area. This factor has had a positive impact on the city’s airport, which in 2016, was India’s 14th largest, handling around 3.5 million passengers and making it equivalent in size to Leeds Bradford, Nuremberg or Katowice airports in Europe, or Louisville and Richmond in the US. Currently the airport is served by 10 airlines, nine of which are local carriers, with just Bhutan’s Druk Air being the only overseas airline flying to Guwahati. In a similar vein, the airport’s 18-destination network (up from 15 in the same week last year), is predominantly domestic, however it does offer two international routes to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi and Paro in Bhutan.
Impressive growth statistics
After five rollercoaster years between 2010 and 2014, when the airport’s traffic witnessed several up and downs, from then on Guwahati’s progress in its passenger numbers has only been positive. In 2014 the airport was only the 15th largest in India, a position which two years later had improved to 14th. Of the nine months of data gleaned from the Airports Authority of India so far this year, the airport has averaged 40% monthly growth in 2017, with an increase of 58% in January being the best result, with only (only!) 31% growth being recorded in September.
As a result of this stellar traffic improvement, the airport is on course to leap ahead of its nearest rivals, and could see Guwahati move up three places to 11th spot, jumping above Thiruvananthapuram, Jaipur and Lucknow airports. With both Goa and Pune airports handling in excess of six million annual passengers in 2016, it will be some time before fast-growing Guwahati closes the gap on them.
SVID says “Good” for Guwahati
When using anna.aero’s SVID calculator, the airport delivers a score of 2.43, which gives it a “good” rating. This sees the Indian facility nestle between Fez (1.89) and Barcelona (4.71). Comparing this seasonal performance against those of its nearest rivals – India’s 13th largest airport Jaipur and 12th largest Lucknow – Guwahati does not perform as well, offering a peakier traffic profile than the former (scoring 1.21 or “excellent”) and being further behind the latter which also managed an “excellent” rating, but with a slightly better score of 0.92.
When looking at the 2014 and 2015 seasonality score of Guwahati’s monthly throughput, the airport appears to have taken a backward step, increasing the ‘peakiness’ of its traffic profile. In 2014, the airport achieved an “excellent” rating with a score of 0.91, and netted the same result in 2015, with another score of 0.91. Looking forward to this year’s SVID score for Guwahati, the anna.aero data elves are predicting advancement in the “good” category with an anticipated score of around 2.24.
IndiGo grows at Guwahati
The airport’s leading carrier is India’s #1 airline, with LCC IndiGo not only holding its top spot when compared to the same week in 2017, but it has increased its gap over the second largest carrier SpiceJet to above 20,000 weekly seats during the last 12 months. This was due in part to IndiGo’s own 22% growth in its weekly seats, but also because its LCC competitor has shrunk its operations at the airport by 26%. In the past year IndiGo has increased its weekly frequencies at Guwahati from 126 to 154, with the addition of a new city pair to Hyderabad (eight times weekly), as well as extra flights to Kolkata (up 14), Chennai and Imphal (both up seven). That said, it’s not all gone IndiGo’s way at the airport, with Mumbai’s weekly rotations down by seven and Delhi falling by one.
Admittedly from a small base, the fastest-growing airline at Guwahati has been Air India subsidiary Alliance Air, offering 75% more seats in January 2018 versus the same week last year. Vistara has experienced the biggest capacity cull at the airport over the last 12 months, with seats falling by 47% from 2,370 in January 2017. It should be noted that if Jet Airways and JetKonnect’s weekly capacity was added together, then it would be the second largest carrier at Guwahati.
Delhi and Kolkata command biggest routes
Led by IndiGo, with its four times daily operation, there are eight airlines fighting it out for supremacy on the leading city pair from Guwahati to the Indian capital of Delhi. Between them the eight carriers offer 105 weekly flights, with every airline flying at least a daily service. Despite the obvious robustness of this market, the route to Delhi has witnessed a 5% decline in weekly seats since last January. There are five city pairs observing a drop in weekly capacity, the worst being Mumbai which has plummeted by 50% over the last 12 months, because of the previously mentioned reduction in services by IndiGo.
The city pairs which have grown at the fastest rate since last January are Bagdogra (+100%), Silchar (+64%) and Imphal (+25%). The two routes highlighted in light green – Hyderabad and Jaipur – are both newcomers to the airport’s top 12 routes over last 12 months. On the former it is again IndiGo’s new service that has opened up this particular sector, whereas SpiceJet has commenced the 1,574-kilometre route to Jaipur, with a daily flight.
Future prospects – growth to continue??
Looking at anna.aero’s New Route Database, there are currently no new airport pairs in the pipeline for Guwahati. So while there may be growth on existing routes to fuel the airport’s continued climb in passenger figures in 2018 and beyond, it is unclear whether the rapid rise of Guwahati’s traffic will continue or whether the airport will go through a period of consolidation as it continues to absorb the significant growth it has delivered over the past three years.