IndiGo is planning a significant ramp-up of international operations in the coming months. India’s largest airline by domestic market share currently operates about 1,600 daily flights of which 150 are international.
The budget carrier is looking at launching flights within 6-7 hours flying time from the four metros starting mid-2024 when the Airbus A321 XLRs (extra long range) start joining its fleet.
Pieter Elbers, former KLM president who took over as IndiGo CEO recently, said “As of now we operate 160 weekly flights between India and the UAE” on Thursday when the airline launched a daily Mumbai-Ras Al Khaimah. The Emirate is IndiGo’s 100th destination in its network.
“What IndiGo has built in the last 16 years is incredible. It flies to 74 domestic and 26 international destinations with a total of 375 city pairs. We will further grow our network with more international connectivity and destinations. The first priority is to broaden our horizon.”Pieter Elbers, CEO, IndiGo
Till the A321XLRs join the fleet, IndiGo will expand its network in nearby regions using the aircraft it currently operates. Flights to Bangladesh will be doubled. China will be back on the network when it opens for foreign travellers.
“We will stay true to our (policy) of being punctual and ensuring affordable fares. The growth potential for Indian aviation is massive. As of now, only about 7.5% of Indians fly by air. Only 6% of Indians have a passport. Even a single percentage point increase in this will lead to a massive jump in travel.”Vinay Malhotra, Head of Global Sales, IndiGo
Asked about the coming competition from Tata Group airlines led by Air India, Elbers said: “Competition is good (for the sector). It will lead to higher service standards. India is marching forward. At the end of the day, there are only 2 or 3 seat types you can buy, but the biggest differentiator will be people. People is where IndiGo has made a big difference for the last 16 years.”
IndiGo says the Ras Al Khaimah flights launched on Thursday, September 22 are “designed to cater to business and leisure travellers who are constantly on the lookout for new and affordable options.”
The UAE has 35 lakh Indians living and working there. The Dubai-based Emirates had recently sought an increase in flying rights to India.
(With Inputs from The Times of India)