IndiGo likely to start regional flights by November
New Delhi: InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, which runs India’s biggest domestic airline IndiGo, is likely to start domestic regional flights by November and progressively expand its route network over the next year.
The airline, which only uses Airbus A320 family planes, surprised investors in May, when it ordered 50 ATR 72-600 regional turboprop planes for regional flights. The induction of these planes is slated to begin in November, said an airline official who did not want to be named. “By November, the operations should start, I think we will be flying in south India first,” said the official.
IndiGo is working to hire employees, including pilots, engineers and cabin crew, for flying on the regional routes.
South India will come as a natural fit for IndiGo as three airlines—Air Costa, Air Carnival and Air Pegasus—which ran ATR and Embraer plane operations in this region have been grounded over the past 18 months.
With smaller planes in its mix, IndiGo is also likely to bid for the government’s UDAN scheme that aims to connect small towns. The government, which offers a subsidy on some seats on every flight under the regional connectivity scheme, is likely to seek applications over the next few weeks in the second round of route allotment.
IndiGo expects to deploy about seven aircraft by March but could speed up capacity induction to 20 ATRs by December 2018 or more, the same executive said.
An IndiGo spokesperson declined to comment.
Rivals are also expanding their regional footprint.
SpiceJet Ltd on Monday announced its third daily direct flight under UDAN scheme for regional connectivity from Hyderabad to Pondicherry and back, starting 16 August.
With a fleet of 20 Bombardier Q400 planes, it has already won 11 UDAN routes to unserved markets of Adampur, Kandla, Pondicherry and Jaisalmer, besides Porbandar and Kanpur.
Air India’s regional flights under Alliance Air are being expanded under UDAN and will become a 20-plane operation by early 2018.
G.R. Gopinath’s Air Deccan is also set to launch operations in September with a 19-seater Beechcraft aircraft.
“It is always a gamble to embark on new markets,” said New York-based Steve Forte, a former CEO of Jet Airways. “There will be adjustments in due time as a few routes will not yield desired results and will need to be closed but there will be others to pick up the slack.”
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