New Delhi: India’s biggest discount airline IndiGo, which is operated by InterGlobe Aviation Pvt. Ltd, has sought the civil aviation ministry’s approval to fly on international routes after it completes the mandatory five years of domestic operations in August next year.
The carrier, based in Gurgaon on the outskirts of New Delhi, wants to fly to countries in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), West Asia and China, the airline’s president Aditya Ghosh said in a letter to the ministry, a copy of which was reviewed by Mint.
Saarc member countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, besides India. Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
IndiGo’s seeking of approval, almost 18 months before it becomes eligible to operate international flights, mirrors the urgency of having to prepare for an overseas market that’s getting increasingly crowded as rival Indian carriers expand and corner bilateral rights to fly abroad and airport slots at key destinations.
Stepping out: IndiGo’s Aditya Ghosh. An early nod will help the airline start talks with global airports and regulators for mandatory approvals. Namas Bhojani/Bloomberg
“As planning and implementation of international operations is a long-drawn process, IndiGo has commenced its preparations to enable international operations from 4 August (2011),” Ghosh said in his letter.
Early approval of the request would enable IndiGo, which started operations on 4 August 2006, to start talks with international airports and overseas aviation regulators for mandatory approvals, appoint local staff abroad and make other commercial decisions.
Ghosh could not be reached immediately for comments.
IndiGo, with five aircraft more than the minimum 20 that the Centre says domestic airlines require to fly overseas, operates 170 daily flights between 22 Indian cities now.
With a share of 14.9% of the domestic passenger market, IndiGo has taken government approval to induct 10 more aircraft into its fleet this year, four more than the six it had sought to add earlier.
India’s aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has been asked by the civil aviation ministry to conduct a check of its preparedness to fly abroad. “It’s almost 18 months away, we will see,” said a ministry official about the prospects of IndiGo’s overseas expansion. He asked not to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Air India, Air India Express, Jet Airways (India) Ltd, JetLite and Kingfisher Airlines Ltd fly to international destinations from India.
SpiceJet Ltd, IndiGo’s main low-cost rival, will join the group from this summer when it turns five years old. The cities it has shown interest in flying to include Dhaka, Colombo, Kathmandu and Male, its chief executive Sanjay Aggarwal had said earlier.
Kingfisher is starting seven international flights between now and the next month alone. Jet is expanding to South Africa, launching a Mumbai-Johannesburg service from 14 April and increasing frequencies to West Asia. Air India is extending its Delhi-Hong Kong flight to Seoul.