Despite Jet Airways’ end, 39 million seats exist between India and the Gulf
Almost 10 million Indians live in the six countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – that comprise the Gulf Cooperation Council. Saudi Arabia (4.1 million) and the UAE (2.8 million) are particularly strong. Naturally, this results in very significant P2P demand, as well as sixth freedom traffic over the Gulf hubs in particular.
In 2019, 159 routes operate between the two, generating 39 million seats across 256 daily frequencies (each way).
Despite stable capacity growth since 2015, the decline in 2019 over 2018 was from the end of Jet Airways. Jet Airways’ last full year of operating, 2018, saw the airline offer the highest number of frequencies between India and these six countries, at about 74 daily, aided by its use of B737s.
The void left by Jet Airways has received particular attention from Indian operators, especially IndiGo, which added 1.2 million seats YOY from 18 new routes. This includes recent additions from Riyadh to Mumbai and Delhi, which enable strong connectivity across India. Meanwhile, both India’s Go Air and Vistara began operating to the Gulf in 2019.
27 Indian and 15 GCC airports are served. Of these, Dubai International is by far the most-served with one-third of all seats. In all, Dubai International has 73 daily frequencies (each way) to 21 Indian cities. The strength of Dubai is partly from Emirates’ sole use of wide-bodies, but it is also from the accumulation of nine operators to India. Unsurprisingly, Dubai is present in 70% of the top 10 routes.
|Top 10 airports in 2019||Top 10 routes in 2019|
|Airport||Two-way seats||Route||Two-way seats|
|Dubai||12,787,000||Dubai – Mumbai||2,550,000|
|Mumbai||7,079,000||Dubai – Delhi||2,044,000|
|Delhi||6,017,000||Dubai – Hyderabad||1,137,000|
|Abu Dhabi||5,119,000||Dubai – Kochi||1,071,000|
|Doha||4,390,000||Dubai – Chennai||1,061,000|
|Kochi||4,250,000||Abu Dhabi – Mumbai||1,024,000|
|Muscat||4,042,000||Abu Dhabi – Delhi||924,000|
|Sharjah||3,775,000||Dubai – Bangalore||922,000|
|Kozhikode||3,525,000||Abu Dhabi – Kochi||773,000|
|Hyderabad||3,399,000||Dubai – Kozhikode||687,000|
Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.
While Emirates is the single largest airline, as shown below, it is not the largest at group level, even when flydubai is included. Instead, Air India and its low-cost subsidiary, Air India Express, is. Air India Express is rarely discussed but operates 25 B737-800s and primarily connects the Southern Indian state of Kerala to the Gulf.
Bilaterals often remain a limitation, but how many years do you think it will be until IndiGo becomes the number-one airline between India and the Gulf? Vote now.
Future articles will look at the sixth freedom operations of key Gulf airlines to and from India, as well key unserved and under-served opportunities – of which there are many.