IndiGo said to get DGCA nod for modified regional planes
New Delhi: InterGlobe Aviation Ltd’s IndiGo is likely to debut its regional operations in South India later this year using a new seating plan on its smaller aircraft which have been approved by the aviation regulator.
IndiGo—India’s biggest domestic airline, with a 140-aircraft Airbus A320 fleet—will use a 74-seater ATR turboprop where the first row seats will face each other.
“The airline says that if there is a family of four they can sit facing each other,” said a Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official who did not wished to be named. “We have cleared the induction.”
DGCA has cleared the 78-seater version of the same aircraft just in case another airline wants to bring the extended version later.
South India is likely to be the focus of IndiGo’s regional operations, at least in the first phase. The airline’s first three ATRs are expected to be based out of Hyderabad and will start flying to the temple town of Tirupati, besides Vijayawada and Rajahmundry, from December. By launching operations from Hyderabad, the airline will also be filling the void created by the grounding of regional airline Air Costa earlier this year.
IndiGo declined to comment. “As we have said previously we expect ATR operations to start in December and have seven aircraft operating by the end of March,” the airline’s chief finance officer Rohit Phillip had said in an analyst call on 31 July.
Phillip had added then that the airline is not giving an exact number of aircraft it will have by March but indicated that the number would be less than 170, including ATRs.
ATRs, by virtue of being small will have the advantage of lower fuel tax, pay almost no airport charges, and also receive benefits under the government’s regional flying scheme called Udan, or Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik.
A second DGCA official who also did not want to be named said IndiGo has informed the regulator that it is also likely to bring in expat pilots for its new regional operations.
Indian ATR captains command a salary of about Rs5.8 lakh a month. Expats start with a salary of Rs10 lakh a month which is tax-free as per industry norms, said a senior private airline commander who did not want to be named.
IndiGo has ordered 50 ATRs. SpiceJet, one of its closest competitors, flies 20 Q400 aircraft in a 78-seater configuration and has ordered another 50 in a 90-seater configuration.
IndiGo’s new seating plan would be good in certain conditions, said former Jet Airways CEO Steve Forte. “If you have a family or a business quartet it may be pleasant otherwise you’ll have strangers facing strangers, just like on some trains,” he added.
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