ICRA: Passenger traffic at Indian airports reports Y-o-Y decline in March 2019; overall FY2019 sees lowest growth in last five years

After years of strong growth, the traffic growth at Indian airports has hit an air pocket with passenger traffic declining by 1.1% (Y-o-Y) in March 2019. This has dragged down the FY2019 passenger traffic growth to 11.6%, making it the lowest over last five fiscals. During the same period, the aircraft traffic grew by 12.1%, while the cargo traffic increased by 6.0%.

Throwing more light on the development, Mr. Harsh Jagnani, Vice President and Sector Head for Corporate Ratings, ICRA, said: “The slowdown has been witnessed primarily in Q4 FY2019, wherein the passenger traffic increased by only 3.9% Y-o-Y, as against growth of 14.5% in the first nine months. Further, the decline in March 2019 is the first instance of Y-o-Y traffic de-growth in a month since February 2013. Thus, the robust growth trend of last few years, wherein the CAGR had been 17.5% (FY2015-FY2018) has been arrested. This can impact revenues and margins for the airports sector, at a time when many of them are undertaking sizeable capex.”

The decline in passenger traffic follows the increase in airfares due to lower number of flights owing to multiple issues. The overall aircraft traffic also witnessed marginal de-growth of 0.1% in March 2019, led by decline of 1.0% in international aircrafts, while domestic aircraft movement remained stagnant.

As for airport-wise passenger traffic movement, the same has shown mixed trends, but the major airports of Delhi (-9.4%), Mumbai (-16.2%), Chennai (-7.4%), and Cochin (-11.3%) have reported sharp Y-o-Y decline in March 2019. On the other hand, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, and Goa have maintained growth momentum. Overall, metro[1] and non-metro airports reported contrasting performance with former de-growing while the latter reported growth. This affirms diversification of traffic across multiple cities of the country. 

In another development, the cargo traffic growth at Indian airports moderated to 6.0% in FY2019, as against double-digit growth witnessed over the last two years. The growth slowdown was primarily driven by international cargo segment, which accounts for 62% of the total cargo traffic, and reported Y-o-Y growth of 2.6% in FY2019 as against 15.6% in FY2018. On the other hand, domestic cargo traffic has witnessed robust Y-o-Y growth of 12.0% in FY2019, up from 8.1% in FY2018.

[1] Refers to cities with more than 5 million population as per 2011 census and includes – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune.