Home >Companies >News >FlyBig bets on govt’s Regional Connectivity Scheme to emerge stronger from Covid

FlyBig, India’s newest scheduled commercial airline, is betting on travel demand from smaller cities to grow its business, according to a senior company executive.

The airline will operate turboprop aircraft (a turbine engine that drives an aircraft propeller) like ATR72 and Q400, which can accommodate 70-80 passengers, for regional routes like Shillong-New Delhi, Indore-Ahmedabad, and Indore-Raipur, which have seen good growth potential, especially at a time when the domestic aviation sector is recovering from the covid hit.

“The strategy is to keep costs low, bring down the number of staff per aircraft reasonably and also avail viability gap funding from the government (to fly on routes under the regional connectivity scheme)," Srinivas Rao, chief executive of FlyBig, said in an interview.

The airline will operate several weekly flights on routes under the Centre’s Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS), which connects smaller towns and cities and includes government support in the form of viability gap funding, besides tax concessions.

However, there are several challenges to a regional airline like FlyBig after several regional carriers shut shop in the past few years.

According to aviation consultancy Capa India, strong demand on regional routes is often driven by low fares.

“Our model suggests that if small regional airports are connected to a major regional hub, and a cost-effective regional carrier emerges, there would perhaps be a business case for an affiliate airline in India," Capa India said in a recent research report on regional air travel.

FlyBig hopes to buck the trend though as it plans to tread cautiously by keeping its costs under control. The airline will not rush into ordering or leasing planes and continue to gradually scale up its operations, Rao said.

“We are an experienced team helming the airline," he said, adding that FlyBig will remain competitive as it navigates through the domestic aviation market.

A former Airbus A320/A330 flight instructor with Etihad Airways, Rao has over three decades of experience in the industry. He has also held important positions at Kingfisher Airlines and Indian Airlines during his career.

FlyBig commenced its first flight on 21 December between Shillong and New Delhi. However, the airline’s first scheduled commercial flight took place on 3 January between Indore and Ahmedabad. It plans to launch flights between Indore and Raipur, and Ahmedabad and Bhopal in the near future.

Starting an airline during a pandemic is not ideal, Rao said adding FlyBig will gradually expand its operations as demand returns to normalcy.

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