New Delhi: IndiGo, India’s largest airline by domestic market share, has asked its employees to make every possible effort to improve on-time flight performance.
The airline has always highlighted the on-time performance of its flights and even designed advertising campaigns around it. In recent months, however, the on-time performance has slipped, challenged by external events such as winter fog and as the airline has grown in size. IndiGo witnessed a sharp decline in its OTP from four major airports to 72.4% in November 2016 from 81.2% the previous month, one of the lowest in recent times, data from aviation regulator the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) shows.
In a 5 January email sent to some operations staff, the airline’s vice president (flight operations), Ashim Mittra, wrote, “We pride ourselves on being an ‘on-time airline’. However in the recent past, we’ve slipped in this aspect. In fact in certain months our competitors have had better OTP (on-time performance) than us.”
“Please be reminded that we are not talking IROPS here, this malaise has hit us even in reasonably good weather. We certainly need to get our act together,” Mittra said in the email, a copy of which has been seen by Mint. IROPS refers to irregular operations in airline terminology including those like fog delays.
Mittra laid out some “immediate steps” framed to improve performance. These include joint briefing of pilots and cabin crew at the aircraft for domestic departures during morning hours.
Mittra asked IndiGo pilots to reach the airport about 70 minutes before the flight and do their check-in and pre-flight medical test at 60 minutes, complete paperwork at 45 minutes, leave the check-in office for the aircraft at 45 minutes, reach the aircraft to commence operations for the flight at 35 minutes, close the doors at 20 minutes and push back the plane at 15 minutes to departure.
The airline has also decided to depute an operations facilitator at the airport during the early morning hours starting 4 am to help “monitor movement of Flight Crew, and help overcome any challenges that Pilots may face.”
The airline has also warned pilots to not forget their airport passes or passports when reporting to the airport at all times or face stern action.
IndiGo declined to comment on the matter.
“Every department is being asked to pitch in and do their best. You cannot allow your strength to fritter away like this. That cannot be accepted,” said a person aware of the situation, who did not want to be identified. Every airline faces challenges when climbing this curve of 100 to 150 planes, the person added.
IndiGo has added nearly 23 planes in the last one year and now has a fleet of 125 Airbus A320 planes. It is expected to add about two planes to its fleet every month on average over the coming year, which could see it cross the 150-mark soon.
In 2016, IndiGo topped 40% domestic passenger market share—a first for any airline since early 2000.
Until then Air India, Jet Airways and Air Sahara used to split the market between them, clocking similar numbers.
New York-based former Jet Airways CEO Steve Forte said passengers, security, boarding process, outside vendors (catering, refueling, maintenance checks, etc.) will continue to create their own set of challenges for airlines.
“In reality his good intentions should be coordinated with the other departments as a “total quality” program to insure optimum departure performance,” Forte said, referring to Mittra’s email.
“Finally, lots and lots of communication both vertical and lateral—many ideas of improvement come from the bottom ranks and filter upwards, so top management has to listen attentively. Programs to stimulate and reward ideas are very helpful as well as any program to keep employee morale high,” he added.