Last Updated: Sun, Mar 10, 2013 19:33 hrs

With the presumed entry of AirAsia in a tie-up with the Tata group into India's crowded civil aviation sector, and the departure of employees from Kingfisher Airlines making it ever more likely that it will not revive, the industry is on the cusp of change. And it is not coming a moment too soon, as Table 1 shows: Profits in the industry are in severe trouble, with not a single listed airline making profit. (Table 2 demonstrates that airlines in mature markets do at least see profit, if not a vast one.) The state-controlled carrier, Air India, is worse than any of them. Aviation, in a growing market, is a debt-heavy industry. While SpiceJet has brought its debt under control, Table 1 also shows that most airlines continue to have trouble with their debt burden. Perhaps part of the reason is visible in Table 3: Full-service airlines like Air India and Jet have gone in for plane purchases. The low-cost carriers have fewer planes, more efficient schedules, and tend to lease most of them. Passenger load factors, as Table 4 shows, make a difference too; while Air India suffered for years from empty planes - and is remedying that now - IndiGo consistently does well on that front. Unsurprisingly, as Table 5 shows, the Indian market has shifted decisively towards low-cost carriers, and that's probably why AirAsia expects to make a killing. In just a few years, the market can change dramatically after all, as Table 6 demonstrates; Jet, Air India, and affiliates had almost 80 per cent of the market half a decade ago, but SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir have made major inroads since. Meanwhile, the market continues to grow steadily, as Table 7 shows.

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