Domestic and international travellers in Pakistan rose 8% to 17.9 million in fiscal year 2013-14 compared to previous year, recording the fastest growth in passenger traffic in the last three years, according to data provided by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
While the data obtained for 2013-14 was provisional, the numbers used are passengers who embarked and disembarked, according to international reporting standards.
Meanwhile, international traffic increased 11% to 10.87 million, while the number of domestic passengers clocked in at 7 million in 2013-14, up 3.5% over the previous year.
This should come as a shock for the CAA and the aviation industry, which expected a stagnant market, as the deteriorating security situation and low yields forced a few airlines to cut down flights to Pakistan in the recent months.
The struggling Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) continued to lose on the domestic front with its share in the passenger market dropping from 71.25% in 2012-13 to 55% in 2013-14 as competitors wooed away its customers. It carried 3.89 million passengers. Shaheen Air International (SAI) emerged as the major gainer after it recorded a market share of 24.19%, a drastic improvement from the 9.9% it held in the previous year. Around 1.69 million passengers flew on SAI, which has increased its fleet to 19 aircraft.
However, what was once an emerging airline, Airblue seems to be in hot waters. It took a battering in the domestic market that saw its share drop from 18.84% to 12%. With just four Airbus A-320s, the airline has limited its focus on certain routes.
Air Indus, the newest Pakistani airline, has taken the market by storm. In little less than a year it already commands a market share of 8.55%. The airline started operations in July-August last year and up till June 2014, it had carried around 602,140 passengers.
The airline has to wait a few more months before the CAA allows it to fly to international destinations.
CAA officials say that any share left would be absorbed by domestic airlines but a few investors are still vying to launch new commercial air services.
PIA’s dominant position in the international passenger traffic market shrank further. It now has a market share of 28.16%, compared to 34% and 39% in 2012-13 and 2011-12, respectively. The airline flew 3 million international passengers in 2013-14.
The state-run carrier’s number of flights has continuously gone down in the last few years. Between 2011 and 2013, it had to cut flights by 30% primarily due to lack of airworthy jets.
Emirates followed second with a market share of 17.37%. The Dubai-based airline’s share has gradually increased from 12.84% in 2011-12 and 14.83% in 2012-13. With 12.66% share, Shaheen Air continued to hold the third position.
Saudi Airlines, Airblue, Etihad, Qatar and Thai had a market share of 9.86%, 6.3%, 4.9%, 4.56% and 3.4% respectively.
Cathay Pacific, which stopped flights to Pakistan recently as part of its drive to cut loss-incurring routes, carried 71,699 passengers in 2013-14.
While Pakistani airlines still cater to 47.12% of the international traffic, their share has decreased from 51.97% in 2012-13 and 53.3% in 2011-12.
“This has happened despite the fact that PIA enjoys a monopoly over all the direct routes to Europe,” said a senior CAA official. “Even the private carriers have allocated slots for airports in England that they are not using.”
The regulator says that considering the situation it becomes imperative to encourage foreign airlines to increase frequency to Pakistan. “Ultimately, the convenience of passengers is our priority.”
Economic slowdown, rupee depreciation, government apathy and terrorism, which scared away tourists, have limited the growth of passenger traffic, particularly on domestic routes.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2014.