Excellent work in reducing unit costs in Q2’16, exceeded expectations.
Disappointing revenue performance.
Excellent ancillary revenues.
Accumulated losses around 200 crore, losses since start of operations around INR 150 crore.
Financial & certain performance data reported by AirAsia India is inconsistent, inaccurate, and unreliable.
Before we begin the analysis of AirAsia India’s performance, it must be noted that the quarter reports of AirAsia are unreliable, on at least four counts, as observed:
The quarter report for Q1’16 (“SECOND QUARTER REPORT ENDED 30 JUNE 2015”) states that in Q1’15, AirAsia India reported a net loss of RM 0.4 Million. However, the quarter report for Q1’15 (“SECOND QUARTER REPORT ENDED 30 JUNE 2014”) states that AirAsia India reported a net loss of RM 13.8 Million. This translates to a difference of RM 13.4 Million / INR 25.9 crore.
The quarter report for Q4’15 (“FIRST QUARTER REPORT ENDED 31 MARCH 2015”) states that in Q4’14, AirAsia India reported a net loss of RM 12.4 Million, which, based on the RM-INR conversion rate prevalent then, converts to INR 22.7 crore. However, the P&L statement in the same Q4’15 report states that AirAsia India had a net loss of only INR 8 crore.
The quarter report for both Q2’16 (“THIRD QUARTER REPORT ENDED 30 JUNE 2015”) and Q2’15 (“THIRD QUARTER REPORT ENDED 30 JUNE 2014”) states that in Q2’15, AirAsia India recorded a net loss of RM 15.7 Million, which converts to INR 29 crore based on the RM-INR conversion rate prevalent then. However, in the Q2’16 report, AirAsia India is stated as having incurred a net loss of INR 52.9 crore.
The flown capacity (ASK) reported by AirAsia India in its quarterly reports is 12%, 5% and 3% higher than what the airline has reported to the DGCA in Q2’16, Q1’16, and Q415. However, in teh two sources of data, the number of flights by the airline match perfectly, and the number of passengers flown are reasonably close.
As a result of (3), we will refrain from comparing Q2’16 data with Q2’15 data, but will only compare Q2’16 data with Q1’16 and Q4’15 data.
As a result of (4), we will refrain from using the AirAsia India flown capacity as reported in the quarterly reports, as this leads to very misleading performance numbers. We stick to the DGCA data.
We had already mentioned the first three points, but the discovery of issue (4) made us withdraw our earlier analysis and revise the numbers. This is the revised analysis.
Due to the ambiguity resulting from points (1), (2) and (3) above, the total losses accumulated by AirAsia India including Q2’16 is around INR 200 crore. Total losses since start of commercial operations (ignoring June 2014) stands at INR 150 crore as reported by AirAsia India.
Q2’16 (July 01st – September 30th, 2015) was AirAsia India’s first full quarter of 5 aircraft operations. In this period, the airline flew 416,182 passengers (excluding no shows: 401,905. No shows : 3%), which is a 38% rise compared to Q1’16, though the number of flights increased by 50%. This explains Q2’16’s load factors of 76%, as against Q1’16’s load factors of 83%. The load factors in Q2’16 were lower than the 79% witnessed in the other lean season – Q4’15. Load factors include no show passengers.
The airline operated 34 daily flights as of 30th September 2015, and flew its millionth passenger in the first half of August 2015.
Q2 is historically a lean season. Capacity in Q2’16 grew by 56% over Q1’16, despite flights increasing by only 50%. This is in line with the average stage length of each flight increasing to 1,208 km/flt from 1,146 km/flt. Low load factors, increase in average stage length, and the low pricing power in the lean season have together resulted in the average fare dropping to INR 2,684 in Q2’16 from INR 3,350 in Q1’16. In Q2’16, AirAsia India did not inaugurate any new routes, but added a frequency on the Bengaluru – Vizag sector, and hence, there was no significant effect of low yields due to new routes.
Ancillary revenues at the airline have picked up very well. From being just 8% of total revenue in Q4’15, to 10% in Q1’16, it touched 15% in Q2’16. This has been aided by the increase in cargo per flight, to an average of 1,205 kg per flight in Q2’16 compared to 1,074 kg/flt in Q1’16 and 971 kg/flt in Q4’15.
However, on a unit basis, the airline’s revenue per available seat kilometre (RASK) suffered a 27% drop from Q1’16 figures, to settle at INR 2.22/seat-km, due to the factors mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. The unit revenues are 22% lower than the Q4’15 lean season.
AirAsia India’s cost performance is very good, and has touched record low values in Q2’16.
Unit aircraft fuel expenses fell by 13% in Q2’16 compared to Q1’16, despite fuel prices falling by only 9%. Higher average stage length of 5% can only contribute little to improved fuel consumption. However, tankering and uplifting fuel from stations with low sales tax on fuel may explain a part of the lower fuel expenses. Sales tax at Vishakhapatnam is just 1%, Goa 12.5%, Guwahati 22%, Imphal 20%, and Delhi 20%. Delhi, Guwahati, Imphal and Vishakhapatnam operations, and increased operations to Goa in Q2’16 may have significantly contributed to the drop in fuel costs.
Inexplicably, the staff costs have dropped in Q2’16 compared to Q1’16, from INR 31 crore to INR 29 crore. While there is no obvious explanation for such a drop, it has resulted in the unit staff costs to drop by 41% in Q2’16.
Unit maintenance costs have increased by 2% in Q2’16.
Due to longer flights, capacity has increased by 56% but flights by only 50%, in Q2’16 compared to Q1’16 resulting in the 7% drop in unit user charges and related expenses, which are largely a per-flight expense.
Unit lease expenses have dropped significantly by 29% in Q2’16, attributable to increased aircraft utilisation, higher capacity and no aircraft having to remain on ground in Q2’16. Average lease rental per aircraft per month is INR 2 crore.
Other operating expenses, most of which are fixed, have been diluted by the higher capacity, dropping by 25% in Q2’16.
Other Income, which is treated as part of operations by AirAsia India, increased by 10%, positively impacting the bottom line.
The cumulative effect of increasing frequency, network changes, and increased aircraft utilisation, amongst others, has reduced unit total operational costs at AirAsia India by 21% (including other income which can also be a negative quantity as in Q4’15). This is a brilliant performance, though the drop in staff costs is yet to be clearly identified. One explanation is perhaps the reduction in training expenses due to stagnation of fleet growth, and perhaps the voluntary exit of certain crew.
Break Even Figures
In Q2’16, AirAsia India realised a per-passenger cost of INR 4,621, which is 10% lower than the INR 5,166 cost per passenger in Q1’16, but 15% higher than the INR 4,009 cost per passenger in Q4’15.
In Q1’16, AirAsia India incurred a loss of INR 1,469 per passenger. At the same unit passenger revenue of INR 3,154, AirAsia India would have needed a break-even load factor of 112%.
AirAsia India lost INR 1.04 per seat flown every kilometer, which is 5% lower than INR 1.09/seat-km in Q1’16, but 30% higher than the unit loss incurred in Q4’15.
AirAsia India’s cost structure is depicted in the pie chart. Fuel constitutes 36% of the airline’s expenses.
Cancellations and OTP
Only 6 flights were cancelled by AirAsia India, in Q2’16. The airline operated 3,032 flights, with an average on time performance (OTP) of 87%.
In Q3’16, AirAsia India inducted its 6th aircraft into operations, in the second half of November 2015. Daily flights have gone upto 40, with increase in frequencies and the inauguration of a new route, Delhi – Vishakhapatnam.
Our forecast for AirAsia India’s performance in Q3’16:
Quarter’s Load factors to increase to around 85%.
Capacity to increase by 12% and passengers carried (including no shows) to touch around 520,000.
Average unit passenger revenue may rise by around 20%+ compared to Q2’16.
Certain unit costs to slightly increase due to addition of 6th aircraft and sending one aircraft for half a month for scheduled heavy maintenance.
Certain unit costs to very slightly increase due to weather related delays and diversions.
Ancillary Revenue percentage to drop in light of higher average fare.
For break even, unit passenger revenue must rise by around 45% (compared to Q2’16)
Very slim chance of an operational break-even. More likely in Q1’17 (April – June 2016).
SpiceJet posted its third straight quarter of net profits, with the announcement of its Q2 results. The airline posted a net profit of INR 23.77 crore, but realised an operational loss of INR 27.91 crore. This loss includes the depreciation and amortisation expense of INR 30.36 crore. The airline has immensely benefitted from lower unit fuel costs which have dropped by 35% to INR 1.17/seat-km, compared to the same quarter last year. Higher load factors at the airline have driven up unit revenues by 7% over the same quarter last year.
Below is a detailed comparison of unit revenues between Q2’16 and Q2’15:
In Q2’15, the airline had an average sale (including ancillary revenue, which includes non-passenger revenue such as cargo) of INR 4,019 per passenger. In Q2’16, the airline had an average net sake of INR 3,750 per passenger. Although the airline was able to extract lesser per passenger, it flew more passengers, with the net effect being positive on the revenues.
Cargo performance has however been disappointing, with the airline flying on average 140kg lesser, per flight, in Q2’16 compared to Q2’15. This has resulted in a 7% drop in cargo carried per ASK. This however is partly explained by the shrinkage of the mainline jet fleet at SpiceJet.
Higher passengers, lower per-passenger sales, and lower cargo have resulted in a net 9% higher unit sales.
On the operating expense front, SpiceJet performed worse (on a unit basis) than the same quarter last year. The graph clearly shows that all unit costs have gone up, except for fuel, lease rentals, and aircraft redelivery expenses.
Average fuel prices in Q2’16 was 34% lower than in Q2’15. This has resulted in Spicejet’s unit fuelc osts falling by 35% (The 1% difference is due to the dissimilar fleet mix of Jets and Turboprops). Unit lease rentals have gone down due to a smaller fleet of mainline jets, and a higher utilisation of aircraft. In Q2’15, the airline re-delivered a large number of dry-leased Boeing 737s, which cost the airline much. In Q2’16, there were no re-deliveries of dry-leased aircraft, which has led to lower redelivery expenses.
All other unit costs are much higher, most notably due to the smaller scale of operations which has concentrated certain fixed costs. In Q2’16, the airline deployed 34% lesser capacity than in Q2’15. Yet, all these unit cost increases were offset by the drop in fuel prices.
In Q2’15, SpiceJet lost 69 paisa for every seat flown every kilometre. In Q2’16, SpiceJet lost 10 paisa for every seat flown every kilometre.
However, the unit EBITDA (Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortisation) in Q2’16 was INR 0.01/seat-km, which was an earning of INR 1 paisa for every seat flown every kilometre.
What pushed the quarter to profits?
“Other Income” of INR 72.7 crore, which included 65.4 crore “consequent to finalisation / revision of terms of settlement of earlier lease terminations with an aircraft lessor for three aircraft” tipped the airline into net profits.
Comparison to Q1’16
Q2’15 and Q2’16 are a year apart. In that one year gap, the airline went througha near-death experience and changed hands, making the usefulness of such a comparison limited. A comparison with Q1’16 allows for a better understanding of how things are shaping up at SpiceJet.
Average load factors in Q2’16 were higher than in Q1’16, despite Q1 historically being a season of peak travel demand, while Q2 is historically a lean season.
In Q2’16, compared to Q1’16, SpiceJet flew 5% more flights, carried 5% more passengers, yet carried 10% more cargo, resulting in 5% more cargo per flight. The airline carried on the same number of average passengers per flight : 121, in both quarters. However, the airline operated flight lengths that were 2% lower than in Q1.
Unit revenues were understandably lower in Q2 due to lower pricing power. Net sales per passenger dropped from INR 4,215 to INR 3,750, which resulted in a 8% drop in unit revenues.
On the cost front, fuel prices on average in Q2 had fallen by 9%, but resulted in just 8% unit fuel savings at SpiceJet due to the shorter flights. Lease rentals have perhaps gone up due to the wet leased A319 aircraft contributing to smaller capacity per flight, and the mainline fleet growing in size with no significant change in capacity. This is due to some aircraft going for scheduled maintenance in this period, which has also driven up maintenance costs. The US dollar being higher by 3% in Q2 over Q1 may have also added to the increased expense. However, airport charges have remained almost unchanged. Q2’s higher capacity of 2% brought down employee unit costs by 2%.
Other operating costs and other expenses going up by 27% and 9% respectively cannot be easily explained. Other operating costs were expected to remain the same, while other expenses were expected to fall by around 2%. The increase may be partly explained by increased selling costs (higher agent commissions – which may also explain the higher load factors), increased marketing spend, and training, among others. The airline has done something that has attracted higher expenses in Q2.
In a previous piece, The Flying Engineer had estimated the operational profit of SpiceJet to lie in the INR “around or less than between INR 80 – 110 crore” range. The airline realised an operational profit of INR 70.7 crore. With the results declared exactly a week ago, we shall analyse the actual performance of the airline in Q1 FY 2015-16 (Q1’16).
We first start with costs, as an airline usually has a better grip on costs than revenues. Capacity is measured in seat-kilometres (Available Seat Kilometre – ASK), and costs and revenues, from operations, are referenced to unit capacity. We compare Q1’16 with the same quarter in the last financial year – Q1’15.
Average fuel price in Q1’16 was 28.4% lower than that in Q1’15. The fleet had also shrunk from a Bombardier Q400 : Boeing 737 ratio of around 1:2 to 1:1.3. This impacted fuel costs positively. Due to this ratio, a larger portion of the fuel burn was realised by the Q400s, which enjoy a flat 4% sales tax on fuel, as against as much as 28% sales tax in some airports, applicable to the Boeings. With operations being dominated more by the Q400s, which fly routes much shorter than the Boeings (upto 85% shorter routes on the domestic network), the average stage length had reduced, leading to an increase in the number of departures per unit capacity. More departures and hence landings per unit capacity translates to a higher fuel burn, but this was offset by the Q400’s lower fuel price and perhaps better fuel saving techniques employed at SpiceJet. Unit fuel costs fell by 30.3% despite fuel prices falling only 28.4%.
The changed turboprop : mainline jet fleet ratio also affected lease costs. The Q400s are owned, and hence no lease is paid for such airplanes. As a result, the lease costs of the Boeings (including the wet leased Boeings and Airbuses) were diluted over a capacity that was generated in a larger part by the Q400s. Unit lease rental costs fell by 12%.
Poor on time performance and increased cycles per unit capacity may have led to increased airport charges, though the Q400s do enjoy landing and navigation charges benefits. It is also possible that there may have been an increase in landing, navigation, other airport charges, in flight & other passenger amenities by authorities. Unit airport charges rose 14.8%.
Aircraft maintenance costs were dominated in larger part by the Q400s, which were also utilised higher. The US Dollar strengthened 6.1% against the rupee, which would have led to increased costs. Maintenance costs for each Boeing are expected to have remained largely unchanged. Unit maintenance costs rose by 14.9%.
The quarter witnessed no significant aircraft re-delivery activity, which dropped unit re-delivery expenses by 90.4%.
Other operating costs rose by 45.7% per unit.
Unit employee expenses were impacted by both having a smaller capacity, and the hike in salaries to crew to stop pilots from leaving the airline. This resulted in unit employee expenses rising by 25.5%.
Depreciation and Amortisation expenses are largely dominated by the Q400s. With lower capacity, this expense was rose on a unit basis. Unit Depreciation and Amortisation costs rose 36.2%.
Other expenses, which include a wide variety of costs including hotel and accommodation expenses for crew, dropped by 16.3% on a unit basis.
Overall, unit costs dropped by 12.8%, aided largely by the absence of significant re-delivery expenses and the steep fall in fuel prices. The airline has scope to further streamline costs in at least three areas, with the other areas being out of the airline’s control. When streamlined, either through practices or scale, unit total operational expenses may further fall by 4.3%. With the present scale of operations and in the present environment, this translates to INR 45 crore.
The cost structure at SpiceJet, Q1’16 v/s Q1’15 is shown below:
SpiceJet’s revenues were adversely impacted by lower airline capacity, poor on-time performance, and increased competition leading to lower prices. The first two factors may have made the airline lost high paying, time-sensitive and last minute (D0-D7) passengers. In the 13 month period June’14 to June’15, SpiceJet had the lowest OTP amongst private airlines for 9 months. Further, the cargo carried by the airline on a unit basis dropped by 4.9%, perhaps on account of Q400s dominating a larger part of the capacity. Unit sales fell by 1.1%.
Other operating income rose by 56%.
In total, operating revenues fell by 1% on a unit basis.
(If the Q1’15 P&L statement was not re-classified, unit revenue would have fallen by 2% during the comparison)
Per passenger Revenues
In Q1’15, the sales per passenger (includes ancillary revenue) was a good INR 5,006 per passenger (at re-classified P&L figures). In Q1’16, the the sales was INR 4,215 per passenger. This represents a drop of 15.8% in the sales per passenger.
Usually, a drop in the sales per passenger should not be a concern if the airline flies more passengers. However, a drop in net sales per passenger per ASK (the first number in the unit revenues and cost graph above) is a cause for worry. The drop was INR 0.05/seat-km). This shows that sales per passenger has dropped to a level that overall leads to lesser revenue despite very high load factors.
To put things in perspective, the below graph shows the per passenger sales required to achieve the same net sales from operations, with varying load factors. For example, flying with load factors of 55% at INR 6,939 sales per passenger will generate the same sales as flying 90% load factor at INR 4,240.
In Q1’16, SpiceJet had load factors of 90.5% (Domestic + International). In Q1’15, SpiceJet had load factors of 79% (Domestic + International). If SpiceJet was to have realised the same revenue in Q1’16 with only 79% load factors,the airline would have needed a per passenger sales of INR 4,833. However, the airline in Q1’15 (same quarter, last year) had a per passenger sale of INR 5,006.
This means that had SpiceJet flown with Q1’15 load factors and per-passenger sales, would have realised an increase in sales of 3.6% or INR 39.53 crore in Q1’16. This shows that increase in load factors does not always imply an increase in either Revenue per seat kilometer (RASK) or total revenues.
To have realised this additional INR 39.53 crore, SpiceJet should have generated sales of INR 4,366 per passenger (+INR 151) in Q1’16 at 90.5% load factors.
Of course, unit revenues (RASK) is the most reliable method of gauging performance. But, in the case where RASK falls, the argument above is used to show that the load factor game must be played carefully.
The above argument does not consider the fact that per passenger sales and/or RASK (RASK and per-passenger sales are not directly comparable) can be safely reduced when per passenger costs and/or CASK also reduce. Ultimately, profit is driven by the difference of revenues and costs, and not determined by either revenues or costs alone.
Unit operating profit rose by 201%, despite a fall in unit revenues, largely due to a fall in costs. Fuel today accounts for 35% of the SpiceJet’s operating expenses. Last year, for the same quarter, fuel accounted for 43% of SpiceJet’s operating expenses. If aircraft fuel prices were at the 2014 April-June levels, the airline would have flown into the red.
Had the airline maintained the unit revenues (RASK) of Q1’15, the airline would have generated an additional INR 11.4 crore over the Q1’16 operating revenue of INR 1,106 crore.
Other income at the airline was INR 26.7 crore, against INR 28.9 crore in Q1’15 (re-classified).
Finance Costs in the airline was INR 25.5 crore, against INR 48.7 crore in Q1’15
Profit before tax
In Q1’16, other income (not from operations) and finance costs are almost equal, cancelling out each other. This makes profit in Q1’16 solely due to operating profits, unlike the Q4’15 quarter (ending March 31st 2015) where the airline stepped into profits due to the insurance payoff. Operating loss in Q4’15 was INR 102 crore. Operating loss before depreciation and amortisation expenses was INR 72 crore.
Hot and Spicy or Red?
The Hot and Spicy part is the reduction in finance costs. The Red part in in the operational costs and revenues. Overall, the airline has the potential to perform much better, and hence we’d consider the performance Red, despite the profit. The turnaround has started, but the airline is not yet ‘there’. Costs have to lean and revenues must grow. Good on time performance (OTP) is key. As seen above, sale per passenger and RASK have taken a hit, perhaps largely due to the poor OTP of SpiceJet, and in part due to competition.
Comparison to Estimate
In the estimate of SpiceJet’s Q1’16 performance (click here to read), our estimate of total operating expenses was lesser by 0.26%, while our estimate of revenue from operations was higher by 1.67%. Changes in accounting practices (re-classification, as declared in the Q1’16 financial results) have also impacted the estimate errors. The lower or our estimate of the airline’s operating profit was higher than the actual by 13%. Below is the comparison:
SpiceJet had a great opportunity to report profits in Q3’15 (the quarter ending December 31st, 2014). It didn’t. Before the quarter could conclude, the airline had stalled.
Then there was a stall-recovery. The Marans got out and Ajay Singh got in. The very next quarter, Q4’15, saw the airline posting a net profit thanks to an insurance claim from a Q400 that was written off at Hubli.
Legacy issues, one time costs, redelivery expenses, economic slowdown, high dollar rates, and high fuel prices were some of the reasons given in the past. This time around, the situation is much better. Ajay is doing a good job renegotiating contracts in manners that benefit the airline.
AirAsia India’s journey so far has been interesting. What was a pleasant surprise was the airline reporting its lowest ever net loss in an operating quarter – of INR 19 Cr. This, despite Q4 being a season of low travel demand, and in the same quarter having had numerous delays and cancellations. It was also the first full quarter of three aircraft operations.
AirAsia India claims to have an attractive cost structure. In this piece, we analyse their figures for Q4 FY’15.
In the months of January, February and March 2015, AirAsia India flew 222,502 passengers. No show passengers were 15,055. These two total to 237,557 seats that were sold. No show accounted for 6% of all sold seats. Total seats flown were 300,240, and flown passenger load factor was 74% for the quarter, while seats sold load factor was 79%.
The airline carried a total of 1,620 tonnes of cargo on 1,668 flights, which averaged to 971 kg of cargo per flight – a very good number.
A total of 2,260 hours were flown in the quarter. With three aircraft, this averaged to a daily average aircraft utilisation of 8:22 hrs per aircraft per day. This low average utilisation reflects the cancellations and delays in the quarter due to crew shortage. While the airline was originally scheduled to fly 22 flights a day, the average flights per day in the three months were lower due to the same reason.
12,155 of the airline’s passengers were affected by cancellations and delays of more than two hours in the quarter.
Market share stood at a constant 1% throughout the quarter.
AirAsia India realised an operating expense of INR 95.3Cr in the quarter.
37% of AirAsia India’s costs are due to fuel. The next biggest is staff salaries which make up 25%. Lease comes next at 19%. These three together make up 80% of the airline’s costs. In this period, the airline had three aircraft: VT-ATF/ATB/RED. All three are new enough to have no maintenance issues or checks, and hence maintenance is only 3%.
Average lease cost per aircraft is INR 2 Cr per month.
AirAsia India realised an operating revenue of INR 74.4Cr in the quarter. Of this, 92% was due to passenger ticket sales, while 8% was due to ancillary revenue.
The average fare per passenger (excluding taxes and fees) for the quarter was at INR 2,884. Revenue per available seat kilometre (RASK) was at INR 2.75/seat-km, while Cost per available seat kilometre (CASK) was at INR 3.53/seat-km.
At the same load factor, average fares could have been increased by INR 878 per passenger to operationally break even.
At the same average fares, operational breakeven load factor stood at 103%.
Both figures above assume constant ancillary revenue. Ancillary revenue per flight was INR 35,320.
Average operating cost per block hour was INR 421,311 (US$ 6,600).
Average cost per kilometer flown was INR 635/km.
AirAsia’s losses are on a steady decrease. With five aircraft operating in Q1’16, better routes, and the strong travel demand, the airline may spring a surprise with its Q1 performance.
A sixth aircraft is expected to join the fleet in June. Q2’16 – a lean season- will be an interesting quarter to watch, with a mild possibility of a break even. The airline may either break even or post profits in Q3’16.
The airline added Imphal to its booking engine on 28th May 2015.
In the quarter ending December 2014 (Q3FY’15 – India), AirAsia India, an associate of AirAsia due to the latter’s share of 49% in the India venture, posted a net loss of INR 21.7 Crores.
In the same quarter, spanning the months of October, November, and December 2014, the airline faced a significant challenge. The airline was faced with a shortage of senior cabin crew, effects of which were largely seen in November and December – very significant delays of many flights (up to 5 hours and more) and the cancellation of some. The airline was forced to play around with its schedules to match the flight duty time limitations (FDTL) of its senior crew, which resulted in the delays and cancellations.
Cancellations at AirAsia India rose from 0% in October to 2.65% in November, and dipped to 1.92% in December. In the quarter, a total of 4,019 passengers were affected by delays more than two hours (2% of the passengers carried in the quarter), and 513 passengers were affected by cancellations (0.2% of the passengers carried in the quarter), as per DGCA data.
In the quarter, the airline flew a total of 201,000 passengers, out of 253,852 seats, resulting in a load factor of 79.2% for the quarter. In the month of November, passengers carried dropped to 61,000, down 5,000 passengers compared to October, while load factors increased to 79.8%, up from 76.2% in October, perhaps indicating that the loads in November were driven by servicing affected passengers.
December is a month of high domestic travel demand. December 2014 was AirAsia India’s first month of operations in a high demand season, which resulted in domestic load factors rising to 81.5% – its highest since start of operations. Considering that the target customers for AirAsia India are leisure travellers, AirAisa India was expected to have recorded higher load factors. This figure was the lowest among all airlines in India for the month, either due to the airline’s limited network or an image that was impacted by the high number of cancellations and delays that continued into December.
AirAsia India ended the quarter with a fleet of 3 Airbus A320 aircraft, of which two are used (from AirAsia Malaysia), and one is new (directly received from Toulouse). The third aircraft entered commercial operations on 18th December 2014.
In the quarter, the airline added only one destination to its network – Pune, on the 17th of December 2014, while doubling the frequency on the Bangalore-Jaipur sector, and halving the Bangalore-Chennai frequency. The airline presently services Chennai, Cochin, Goa, Chandigarh, Jaipur, and Pune from Bangalore, and Jaipur from Pune.
As per AirAsia, AirAsia India will receive just three additional aircraft in the year 2015, raising its total fleet to just six (6) aircraft by the close of calendar year 2015. All three aircraft will be used (older) airplanes from AirAsia Malaysia. In the same year, the group will receive only five new airplanes from Airbus, of which one will be for Malaysia AirAsia, two for Phillipines AirAsia, and two for Japan AirAsia which presently has no aircraft.
AirAsia India is forecasted to have a load factor of 81% in Q4 FY’15 (Q1 CY 2015). This may seem difficult considering the airline is entering another lean season, and its past performance in both lean and peak seasons hasn’t been encouraging enough to support this forecast.
However, one tactic that the group may resort to is to feed traffic from Malaysia AirAsia and Thai AirAsia into Bangalore, which can then be picked up by AirAsia India to offer more connections in India, such as Jaipur, Chandigarh and Goa to passengers of the other two AirAsia associate airlines.
Says Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group CEO, “For a new airline, the AirAsia brand is strong in India and the load factor of 80% recorded in 4Q14 speaks for itself. Looking at the growth potential there, an additional aircraft was added in India during the reported quarter hence it ended the year with a total of 3 aircraft. Though the associate, due to the local regulations, is only allowed to operate domestic routes in its first five years of operations, AAI has the advantage of getting traffic feed from MAA and TAA which also flies in to AAI’s hub in Bangalore. This differentiates AAI from its competitors."
AirAsia’s A320NEOs will be delivered only at the end of calendar year 2016. Further, in 2015 and the next few years, the group will not be taking in large number of aircraft every year like before, in an attempt to preserve cash.
For the quarter, Thai AirAsia was the only associate to record a net profit. Indonesia AirAsia, Malaysia AirAsia, Philippines AirAsia, AirAsia Japan and AirAsia India recorded net losses. Indonesia AirAsia and Malaysia AirAsia however recorded operating profits.
IndiGo, the airline known to consistently post annual profits, realised a net loss of INR 100Cr in Q2 FY2014-15, covering the months of July, August and September (see footnote). In this period, the airline added a capacity of 15%, compared to Q2’14, but flew 21% more passengers – a total of 5.7 Million.
The airline ended Q2’15 with 10 aircraft more than Q2’14, with the fleet strength standing at 82 as of September 30th 2015. This is an increase of 14% in fleet strength compared to Q2’14. The disproportionately higher increase in capacity compared to fleet increase is explained through a 3% increase in average aircraft utilisation, up to an average of around 11.5hrs in Q2’15.
The increase in passengers in Q2 is partly due to an increase in capacity, and partly due to market stimulation efforts that IndiGo adopted, to keep up with SpiceJet’s initiatives. On April 4th, IndiGo launched fares between INR 1,499 and 2,199 for travel between 1st July 2014 and 30th September 2014. The period of travel was exclusively in Q2’15. This was followed by few other promos, most of which were for travel in September 2015. This resulted in September recording the highest growth in passenger, Year-on-Year, as seen in the graph below.
IndiGo’s capacity increased in the three months of Q2: July, August and September. However, compared to Q2’14, the number of passengers per ASK dropped in July, picked up in August, and shot up in September due to numerous sales that targeted September: historically the weakest month for domestic travel. The airline’s cargo performance recorded a growth in July and September. The increase is partly due to the fact that IndiGo has started carrying mail in addition to freight, since May 2014.
Average flight hours per departure have reduced, indicating on average shorter flights flown by the airline, due to increase in domestic flights. International flights, which comprised 6.6% of all flights in Q2’14, has halved to 3.4% in Q2’15, indicating a strengthening on the domestic front and a reduction on the international front (International flights dropped by almost 40%).
However, a lack of vigour and success in market stimulation may have been responsible for the domestic load factors (LF) of the airline to consistently trail the average domestic load factors (see graph above). It may be possible that since IndiGo responded to sales, especially those by stimulation leader SpiceJet, but didn’t initiate them, the efficacy of the sales drives may have been severely limited (a lot of planning and analysis goes into each sale. Responding to others may rob the respondent the time to perform sufficient due diligence). See the comparison between SpiceJet’s and IndiGo’s load factors, below – IndiGo can do a lot better. This could have had an adverse impact on the airline’s RASK (Revenue per available seat kilometre). We consider only the domestic LF, as International forms just 11% of the airline’s deployed capacity.
Interestingly, Rakesh Gangwal and Sanjiv Kapoor have both earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania. However, a true low cost airline experience (and proven market stimulation strategy) is brought to the table by SpiceJet CCO Kaneswaran Avili. His experience at AirAsia and Tigerair have resulted in the graph below.
A comparison with SpiceJet
A comparison with SpiceJet becomes inevitable – the two largest low cost carriers with seemingly different strategies today.
Sources within IndiGo reveal that the airline’s CASK (cost per available seat kilometre) is at around INR 3.6. Compared to its next biggest LCC competitor – SpiceJet’s CASK of INR 4.07, this is INR 47 paise lower. IndiGo lost INR 175 for every passenger flown in Q2.
The CASK at IndiGo seems to be INR 3.6, and the RASK for Q2 may hover around INR 3.4-3.5. This may be higher than SpiceJet’s Q2 RASK of INR 3.26, which was impacted by cancellations and clubbing of flights.
Here are two interesting scenarios:
One – where IndiGo could have stimulated the market like SpiceJet. An aggressive market stimulation may have narrowed the loss for IndiGo, or it could have perhaps reported a profit. The airline could have flown fuller airplanes (in the light of its disappointing load factors) and brought in more revenue, resulting in a higher RASK. SpiceJet in 2014-15 is undoubtedly the Indian market leader in stimulation. IndiGo on the other hand didn’t respond too well to this. It will be interesting if this figures in their next year’s strategy.
Two: Where SpiceJet could have had the CASK that IndiGo enjoys. If SpiceJet’s CASK was INR 3.6 against its INR 4.07, its loss would have narrowed to around just INR 120Cr. Despite its high RASK, SpiceJet was able to salvage the situation to a level where the loss was arrested at INR 310Cr.
If IndiGo starts behaving like a true low cost carrier, perhaps emulating, and not merely responding to the kind of market stimulation that SpiceJet was able to execute, it may become an untouchable. The only way for other airlines to survive will be through differentiation: Vistara as full service, with favourable connections to the world through Singapore; Jet as a full service, with favourable connections to the world through the middle least; and SpiceJet through its well differentiated in flight services and Tier II/III connectivity. AirAsia and GoAir may face the highest heat as they yet do not have an offering that IndiGo doesn’t. While AirAsia may have the backing to grow to a scale to take on IndiGo with scale and lower costs, GoAir will be the loner.
Fleet and network expansion
A strategy that IndiGo seems to be applying is market dominance through excess capacity, frequency and network. The airline, however, is yet to make the most of its ‘overcapacity’.
IndiGo received its 100th aircraft on the 3rd of November, 2014, completing an order that was placed in 2005. With this 100th aircraft, the fleet size rose to 84 (16 A320s were sent off as per the old lease contract that lasted six years).
To fill the gap between November and last next year – when its NEOs from its second, 180 aircraft order placed in 2011, are expected to be delivered, IndiGo has ‘short term’ leased around 12 Airbus A320 aircraft used by Tigerair or its now defunct subsidiary at Indonesia – Tigerair Mandala. The first aircraft, a non-sharklet A320 that flew at Indonesia, joined IndiGo’s fleet on 21st November as VT-IDB.
IndiGo today (26th Nov 14) announced Kozikhode as its newest, 37th destination, which will be connected 2nd January onwards. With this, the airline’s daily flight count will rise to 554.
Footnote: Source of loss: Airline internal sources.
AirAsia India completed its first full quarter of operations. The airline, which took off on June 12th 2014, carried 128,089 passengers in 946 flights to 5 destinations, in the Q2 period. It posted a net loss of approximately INR 29 Crore.
It is widely believed in the industry that SpiceJet may post a Q1 loss. Some were convinced, based on personal estimates. Others heard whispers. But, there could be some hope. The Flying Engineer redoes some numbers to show how SpiceJet could (but not a guarantee that it will-this is purely an academic exercise) spring a surprise on a nation that is so used to seeing the red airline in the red.
The turning point
The airline started steering a different course with Chief Operating Officer Sanjiv Kapoor: the classy man heading SpiceJet at the operational front. The bigger turning point was when he restructured his top management, and bringing on board the new Chief Commercial Officer Kaneshwaran Avili, who is ex-AirAsia and ex-Tiger. To some of us who watch the industry, we are in absolute awe of Avili, not only for what he’s done, but for what he’s doing. There were other posts that got a fresh nameplate, but the biggest changes are the COO and the CCO.
Sanjiv, with his legacy experience, is all set to change the brand (image and offering) of SpiceJet, positioning itself as not a low cost carrier but a classy low cost carrier that caters, however limited, to the business crowd. Not surprising, as corporate flyers make most of SpiceJet’s bread and butter.
Avili, on the other hand, is keen on aligning the low cost carrier with global best practices for such airlines.
In short, Sanjiv caters to the first few rows of the aircraft, while Avili tries to work with the later rows in the cabin.
A great combination, in our humble opinion.
You could have the best team, but in the end, all that ever matters are results. This is where the optimists and the pessimists are divided. For one, media reports (and verified true) of employees not receiving their form 16 from the airline is making most wonder if the airline has only sunk deeper, exhibiting the symptoms that plagued Kingfisher just before its downfall. These are the whisper driven crowd.
The optimists-some of whom (and who are just a handful) have reason to believe that the airline’s results – numbers – may have a different story to say, and maybe even spring a surprise on everyone.
To the numbers we March.
Beyond March-and before July make up the first quarter of the financial year. As shown in a previous analysis of SpiceJet by The Flying Engineer, there is a strong correlation between the passenger load factors and operational profits. April was a disappointing month for Spicejet (and few others), with domestic load factors that slumped compared to the previous year-for all carriers except Jet Airways and its low cost arm JetLite. In May, SpiceJet recorded and increase, and in June, displayed the best load factor increase performance, while IndiGo has been the only carrier to be in the negative for all three months of Q1.
Overall Market Demand
The second month of Q1-May-is typically the peak season for domestic travel. Yet, all carriers except Jet, Jet Lite, and SpiceJet reported a drop in load factors. Was there a slump in the demand for travel?
Year on Year (YoY), the Q1 of FY2014-15 recorded a 7% growth in domestic passenger traffic, while international recorded a 10% growth in traffic. Air Costa has grabbed less than 1% of market share, making us disregard the airline as a contributor to capacity increase. Overall, among the legacy full service and LCC carriers, capacity has increased far greater than demand, leading to low load factors.
But SpiceJet has done the opposite of IndiGo-it has slashed capacity in terms of seats, and ASKs. By pulling out six aircraft from its fleet, and with one Q400 temporarily grounded, it has deployed lesser capacity, but has managed an interesting result.
Efficiency of Commercial & Operations
SpiceJet’s fleet has shrunk from Q1 FY13 – sending off 2 Boeing 737s, and preparing six to be sent back to their lessors: 2 scheduled, and four early return, while adding 5 new 737 aircraft, including the latest 737- the infamous ‘Red Chilli’ with a special livery. Compared to Q1 FY13 SpiceJet seems to have had 3 more airplanes on its books, but three less operational aircraft (as six were being prepared for return). One Q400 may have been down for a fairly long period.
While the available fleet has shrunk, very interestingly, SpiceJet has performed positively with respect to a YoY growth when it comes to domestic passengers and cargo carried. These are sources of revenue. It has also shown a negative growth as far as flights, seat capacity, and available seat-kilometers are concerned. These three are sources of costs, which means the costs have reduced. These are numbers from the airline.
Overall, revenue indicators have grown, while cost indicators have shrunk. This can only mean one thing as far as direct operations are concerned: profits. And a similar encouraging trend is also seen in its international operations, which are just 10% of the airline’s overall deployed capacity (ASK). There, the fall in the number of passengers is small compared to the reduction in international ASK.
Overall, in Q1 FY14, SpiceJet flew just 23,400 passengers lesser than Q1 FY13, or just 0.7% lower. Which is impressive, in the face of a much higher airline capacity reduction.
Cargo carried in Q1 FY14 is much higher than Q1 FY13, showing an increase of 10%, or 1,868 tonnes extra.
Ticket Sales & Promos
Of those direct operation figures, as far as passengers are concerned, some seats are low yield seats, as these were promo seats sold across five sale campaigns: ‘Super Summer Sale’, ‘Super Holi Sale’, and three ‘Fly New Network’ promos.
The Summer sale was more an early sales drive, not exactly a ‘sale’. The ‘Super Holi Sale’ offered INR 1,999 tickets in Q4 FY13 for travel mid June onward (bookings 90 days in advance) – or just 1/6th of Q1-in June. Three ‘Fly New Network’ sales in Q1 FY14 were for flights in June, July and August, of which two were for travel only in 2/9th of Q1-in June. Since April and May are peak domestic travel seasons, no significantly low ‘promo’ seats were offered in those two months. Which means that the higher load factors in the month of May are largely a result of normal sales.
But in June, SpiceJet recorded incredible domestic load factors, making it the second highest (after Go Air), allowing the red airline to lead IndiGo in occupancy. Compared to Q1 FY13, the June domestic load factor in Q1 FY14 rose by 8.1% – or 107,466 passengers. If we assume all these passengers paid around INR 1,999, which means the airline took home a minimum of INR 1,500 (After UDF and ST), then the airline’s average yield (domestic) may have fallen by around INR 120, assuming an average passenger yield of INR 5,000 for regular sales. If one is to disregard the 10-lakh seats SpiceJet offered at INR 2013, which included travel in April 2013, then the promos in 2014 may have translated to a passenger revenue reduction of INR 37Cr, compared to Q1 FY13.
This does not mean the airline is losing money because of promo sales. Had these promos not been in place, the airline may have flown lesser passengers, taking a larger hit on its direct passenger revenue through lower sales and lesser stimulation. IndiGo, for instance, carried 687,000 more passengers in Q1 FY14 compared to last year, but added 1.24 million seats, leading to seat capacity deployment that was beyond demand. But considering SpiceJet has managed to fly more passengers with lesser capacity, probably in part because of the changes within the airline- new service, better cleanliness, better service, improved frequency, better timings, and better on-time-performance, the airline may not have sold as many promo tickets as estimated, but probably sold more regular fare tickets, bettering the 37Cr estimate.
In addition, SpiceJet held 11 sales campaigns in Q1 FY- thanks to Avili who took over the role of CCO in Q1 FY14- of which all included flights in Q2 Fy14, and only three included few flights in Q1 FY14 (The Fly New Network sales). Since statistically, demand in Q2 of any FY is weaker, more seats were up for sales. With an approximate 3.75 million seats flown (offered) in each quarter, and conservatively assuming 10% of it was up for promo sales, more than 500,000 tickets may have been sold at an average price of INR 1,777, leading to an additional revenue of INR 100 Crore.
That 100CR sales were for tickets that need to be serviced in Q2 FY14 and beyond. This only means that the airline has sold more tickets than it has serviced in Q1 FY14, leading to more revenues from operations, while not incurring the costs associated with servicing those ticket sales.
With the flash sales triggering a market stimulation, approximately INR 10-50 Crore or more worth tickets may have been sold purely through stimulation.
Pushing the Demand Season
The flash sales have had two effects: shoring up capital, and destroying the notion of a season, proving that seasons are in the hands of the airline. June, which was to have been the onset of the off-season for domestic air travel, has recorded the best load factors, making it a lucrative month, and carrying fuller airplanes (on domestic) than IndiGo in the June of Q1 FY13.
The advent of Ancillaries
Part of SpiceJet’s rebranding was the commercial interest involved with the introduction of preferred seats (where passengers may pay higher for ‘Max’ seats which are the first few and emergency exit seats which either offer better legroom or promise faster boarding and deplaning), and the hot meals with TAJ SATS and CCD. The ancillaries from these introductions are pronounced in June 2014, as the hot meals were introduced towards the end of May of 2014. With these introductions, and the higher number of passengers flown, SpiceJet could have realized higher in-flight ancillary revenue in Q1 FY14 compared to Q1 FY13.
For the Q1 of FY13, SpiceJet reported a profit of INR 50 Crores. One of the largest disproportionate expenses for the airline, in FY13, was maintenance: INR 993Cr, most of which was contributed to in H1 FY13. Over quarters, the maintenance cost averages to INR 250Cr. In Q1 FY13, the maintenance cost was INR 200 Cr. If the maintenance costs prevail, due to activities associated with aircraft being configured to lessor-return conditions, then compared to Q1 FY13, the maintenance cost overrun is INR 50Cr.
Although six Boeing 737s were withdrawn from operations, there were three extra 737s on the books, compared to Q1 FY13, which together add about INR 12Cr in lease over the three months, over Q1 FY13.
Compared to Q1 FY13, fuel prices in Q1 FY14 have risen by an average 10%, while ASKs have fallen by about 7%, resulting in a net fuel price increase of INR 17Cr.
Overall, flights in Q1 FY14 have fallen to 95% of that in Q1 FY13, resulting in airport charges reducing by about INR 5 Cr.
Flight crew salary hikes were not effected in Q1 FY14.
Cargo carried has gone up by 10% in Q1 FY14, contributing to INR 4 Cr of revenues over and above that in Q1 FY3.
Passengers in Q1 FY14 have dipped by 23,400 when compared to Q1 FY13. Assuming these passengers could have been regular fare paying passengers, the airline may have lost INR 11Cr. In addition, due to the promo fares, the airline may have lost INR 37Cr in the form of average yield reduction.
The lesser flights but higher passengers and cargo per flight translate to an average 500kg increase in payload, per flight, which introduces an average 0.65% fuel burn penalty, which translates to INR 5 Cr.
However, the airline may have shored up to around INR 150Cr from the sales in Q1 for services in Q2, and the market stimulation drive. With this, the airline may report a two digit profit (though we’d love to see three), and a single digit profit or a very modest and negligible loss, at worst. It must be noted that proceeds due to ancillaries haven’t been considered, which will increase profits. These profit/loss projects are very approximate, conservative, and willfully skip few other factors that influence cost, and may not hold true in case the airline paid off certain dues from previous quarters (if such rumors of unpaid dues are true) in Q1 FY14, in which case the airline may slip into losses against the above projection.
If the company’s declared results are as analysed above, SpiceJet is on its way to a positive transformation. With all it’s heart.
SpiceJet’s load factor in the May of 2014 has touched 81.4%, its highest in two years since the May of 2012, and is the first month in this calendar year to beat the load factors witnessed by the airline last year. It beats the previous year’s load factors for the same month, by 0.5%.
While this is reassuring news, it must be noted that since 2010, May has been the month when SpiceJet witnesses its highest load factors. May and June are peak months for air travel, but it is only the second best period for IndiGo, which usually sees its best load factors in the month of December.
Statistically, SpiceJet’s load factors slip after May. Loads factors for the month of July are expected to be lower, but it is not known if they are lower than the previous year’s.
Effects of SpiceJet’s most significant market stimulation drive, the Re 1 fare sale which was held for the first three days of April, for travel between 01-July-2014 to 28-March- 2015, will be seen this month. Due to the sale, load factors are expected to go up, and according to the airline’s Chief Commercial Officer Kaneswaran Avili, the stimulation has yielded positive results in terms of higher non-promo fare bookings as well.
With these multiple promotional sales, any higher bookings are a mix of promo fares and regular fares. If the market has been sufficiently stimulated, which will reflect in higher load factors, then the airline will generate additional revenue. But if even after the stimulation, if the load factors rise only slightly, or not at all, it may not generate the airline any additional revenue. If load factors drop, which is highly unlikely, it is the death bell for the airline.
For example, SpiceJet’s Super Holi sale in March for travel between 14th April and 30th June 2014, and the Super Summer Sale in February for travel between April 1 and June 30, 2014, did not seem to have had an overall positive impact on the load factors for the months of April and May. Since the load factors were lower than the corresponding period in the previous year, it only meant that lesser people filled up the aircraft on average, and among that lesser set of passengers, even lesser actually paid a regular fare.
As shown in The Flying Engineer’s analysis of SpiceJet, there is a strong correlation between load factors and operational profits. Considering that (look at the graph) the load factors in April and May have resulted in an average load factor that is 0.6% lower than last year’s load factors for the same months, and that some of that passenger set bought sale/promotional fares and not regular fares, and that the factors in June are expected to dip (based on statistical trends), it may be likely that for the Q1 for Financial Year 2014, SpiceJet may report a loss.
But with the 0.5% in load factors in May, over last year’s, mild hopes are pinned on the second quarter of FY2104, which started yesterday. We do wish the airline all the very best, and hope to see it turnaround fast and strong, before the might of aggressively expanding TATA-SIA and AirAsia India, and the increasing capacity deployed by IndiGo and GoAir possibly choke the airline.
The Flying Engineer looks into some of the areas where SpiceJet’s losses were linked to its planning and performance, mostly to do with operations. The long analysis identifies trends, and looks at areas where the airline could have either saved money, or made money.
Although the airline mentioned that 70% of the airline’s costs are affected by the dollar, this analysis shows how that the dollar can take only part blame for the loss. The real story goes beyond the dependance on the dollar, to a larger dependance on the airline, and how practices, brand, image, network, services, operations, planning, and people are responsible for the mess that SpiceJet found itself in.
The piece also captures most of what SpiceJet has been doing: transforming on the inside and the outside. With string and diligent efforts by the team led by Sanjiv Kapoor, FY2014-15 may witness SpiceJet performing better. However, the new entrants: AirAsia India and TATA-SIA, between which two SpiceJet has positioned itself, will place a lot of stress on the airline, especially at the same time as its turnaround process. Will it survive? Could it have been profitable? How does it measure against its competition? This and more, when you CLICK HERE.
This post briefly compares SpiceJet and IndiGo, and talks of SpiceJet’s financial performance and cost breakup, the Q400 woes, the airline’s route and fleet expansion between end Q2 12 and end Q2 13, the new COO, and also: graphically showing the ATF price trend in India.
SpiceJet, which commenced operations in 2005, is unique. It’s a low cost carrier that flies to 55 destinations (45 Domestic and 10 International), has a dual fleet of 55 airplanes : Boeing 737NG (Boeing 737-800 and Boeing 737-900s), and the turboprop Q400: The only operator of the type in Middle East, South and South East Asia. The 737s have a good market resale value, while Q400s are not in demand. Its 737 fleet has ovens on board, some of its airplanes could be cleaner, and its ground vehicles could be parked better. All its Q400s are fully owned, and the airline is gradually moving away from 737 ownership to leased airplanes. It has mulled a narrow body jet fleet switch to Airbus A320NEOs, and is presently without a CEO since Neil Mills left the airline and went to Philippine Airlines. Spicejet posted the worst ever Q2 loss, ending September 2013, of INR 559 Crores (INR 5.59 Billion), and reported a reported a loss of INR191 Crore during 2012-13 (INR 1.91 Billion). Since the Jan of 2013, till September end 2013, the airline has flown on domestic(international) routes 8.6Million(0.7Million) passengers on 82,569(6,216) flights, and has experienced its best load factor of 81%(78%) in the month of May(June), and 68%(69%), its worst in the month of September(July). Over this 9 month period, the airline had an average load factor of 74.7% (74.2%).
IndiGo, which commenced operations in 2006, is very unique. It’s a low cost carrier that flies to 35 destinations (30 Domestic and 5 International), has a single fleet of 71 airplanes : Airbus A320 airplanes only (not even A319s and A321s): The only operator of a single type and single variant fleet in the country. The A320s have the highest market resale value. Its airplanes have no ovens on board, all its airplanes are clean, and its ground vehicles parked in an organised manner. All its airplanes are leased through a profitable sale-leaseback practice. As part of natural fleet expansion, it has ordered Airbus A320NEOs, and is presently with the same, apparently satisfied CEO since 2008: Aditya Ghosh. Indigo reported a profit of INR 787 Crore (INR 7.87 Billion) during 2012-2013. 2012-2013 was its 5th consecutive year of profits. Since the Jan of 2013, till September end 2013, the airline has flown on domestic(international) routes 13.2 Million (1.1 Million) passengers on 103,439 flights, and has experienced its best load factor of 90%(88.9%) in the month of May(Jan), and 70.3%(73.3%), its worst, in the month of September. Over this 9 month period, the airline had an average load factor of 80%(82.8%).
And yes, SpiceJet is publicly listed, and IndiGo isn’t.
The financial quarter ending September was very challenging for SpiceJet, as for other airlines. Statistically, the months of July, August and September witness a lower domestic demand. Adding to its troubles was the weak rupee, rising fuel prices, increased maintenance costs due to “bunching up of engines sent for shop visits", the start up costs associated with two new destinations: Muscat and Bangkok, and, as per airline insiders, an operationally troublesome Q400 that lead to a recent cancellation of many flights in October. The aircraft, according to one captain, isn’t probably suited for Indian conditions, but “maintenance could do better". Few maintenance personnel feel internal issues in the airline management are partly responsible for the Q400s maintenance and operational reliability that “can actually be better". Some in the airline believe that the Q400s are “wretched aircraft". In the December of 2010, Bombardier announced that SpiceJet had placed a firm order for 15 Q400s, with an option for another 15. Exercising the option for the other 15 hasn’t yet happened, and very likely, won’t.
Operational costs in the airline have understandably increased, with SpiceJet’s addition of almost 22 new routes, and addition of 8 Boeing 737-800s and 3 Q400s to its fleet, between October 2012 and September end, 2013. Despite this, and the increased fuel prices, fuel costs haven’t increased much. Maintenance, and depreciation and amortisation expenses have been the most significant increases compared to the same period last year, which has had the effect of reducing the fuel cost’s share in the airline’s expenses.
SpiceJet stated, “In order to improve its competitive position, the management is putting in place a strategic plan to refine the network, enhance revenues, rationalize costs and further improve reliability to deliver better value to customers."
Question is, are the dual fleet and aggressive route expansion helping the airline? Or is something more needed?
On November 1st, Sanjiv Kapoor joined the SpiceJet as the Chief Operating Officer. Sanjiv started his airline experience with Northwest in 1996, where his role spanned across corporate finance, business planning, procurement and operations. He later joined a world renowned consulting firm, leading their business that caters to airline consultancy. He’s been an advisor to a Bangladeshi airline, as well. How Mr. Sanjiv helps transform the airline is to be seen. But that also depends on how much the airline allows him to implement changes.
Truth be told, unless the top management steps out onto the apron and spends days with operations, many decisions may be based what may not be reflective of ground reality. And it’s on the ground, that most issues are seen, as felt by many of the airline’s staff.
Quoting Firstpost Business’ Sindhu Bhattacharya, with regards to plain survival, “…one or two months of better performance alone may not be enough for SpiceJet to survive — it needs funding and needs them urgently."