The airline that hogged the headlines in 2012 was the debt-ridden Kingfisher. The airline that mattered was IndiGo, which started operations in August 2006 and has since soared to the top of the game.
India’s youngest airline is now the largest. Indigo overtook its closest rival, Jet Airways, in terms of passengers flown, in July. IndiGo is the most profitable airline in India, going by the November numbers, and industry watchers are betting that it will lead the pack in 2013 too since state-run carrier Air India and private rival Kingfisher Airlines will continue to post huge losses. The airline’s advertising campaign is consciously hip and sexy (and all its air hostesses wear wigs straight out of a French New Wave movie), but the company’s promoters, Rahul Bhatia and Rakesh Gangwal, and president Aditya Ghosh prefer to have their ears to the ground rather than their heads in the skies.
“From IndiGo’s inception, 6E’s (IndiGo’s code) aim has been to demonstrate repeatedly that low cost does not mean low quality and that people should come to accept and see that this is the airline that will provide consistently low fares,” says 37-year-old Ghosh, who studied history and corporate law.
Ghosh says that 2012 indeed was a great year—from a fleet size of 48 aircraft, 31 destinations and 289 daily flights in December 2011, IndiGo today operates 61 aircraft, operates 373 daily flights and flies to 33 destinations across India and abroad. IndiGo’s Technical Dispatch Reliability is 99.91%—which means that its flights are the least likely to get cancelled.
Business smarts have contributed to IndiGo’s success. The company follows the globally established rulebook for low-fare carriers to the hilt. It has kept costs under control, flown a single type of aircraft (the Airbus A320-200), offered competitive pricing and opted for gradual expansion by increasing the density of flights rather than sending planes and crews to the far corners of the country.
Apart from flying to key metros, IndiGo now also lands in cities like Guwahati, Imphal, Jaipur, Nagpur, Agartala and Pune. The airline placed orders for 180 aircraft in 2011 (150 belong to the eco-efficient “neo” series and 30 to standard A-320s), and the planes are expected to be delivered between 2016 and 2025. “IndiGo will continue to expand its network to meet the requirements of both business and leisure travellers wherever they demand it—both in India and abroad,” Ghosh says.