IndiGo to lift capacity to 60% by Diwali, says COO

‘Airline in no rush to add destinations’

IndiGo aims to raise its passenger capacity or flights to 60% of pre-COVID-19 levels by Diwali, a top official said.

“We welcome the government’s announcement to allow airlines to operate up to 60% of daily flights,” said Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, president and COO.

“We believe there is an underlying demand waiting to be tapped. In the first 100 days, we were not able to fully utilise the capacity permitted because of various restrictions, including on the part of airports like Mumbai and Chennai,” Mr. Prock-Schauer added.

On Wednesday, the government relaxed the cap on the number of flights airlines could operate to 60% (from 45%) of the summer schedule. However, even with a cap of 45%, airlines couldn’t reach the target as passenger demand continued to remain weak.

IndiGo, with a fleet size of almost 250 planes, was able to realise only 37% capacity.

On May 25, when the government allowed the resumption of domestic flights, airlines were permitted to operate only 30% of the regular flights. For IndiGo, which enjoys more than 50% of the market share, this meant it could only restart 200 of the 1,500 daily flights operated by it before lockdown.

Eyes 900 daily flights

In the first week of September, it had reached 600 flights and targets to achieve 900 by Diwali in November.

To utilise its grounded aircraft, IndiGo, much like other airlines, started cargo and chartered flights for repatriation. To a question on whether the airline planned to add to its network some of the new international destinations it flew to, the airline’s president said it would wait to study whether there is sustained demand.

IndiGo had long planned to start operations to London, which, however, did not materialise even while some of its competitors such as Vistara had started flying to the U.K. capital to gain from the demand from a large presence of Indian expatriates. The airline said its priority now was to stay afloat despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the plunge in demand.

“Our business model is good for a flight of up to six hours,” he said.

“There is no need for us to rush into that [introducing flights to London]. Our first goal is to improve the economics, and establish our network to pre-COVID- 19 levels. But we keep our mind open.”

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