Air India has been in the limelight with its historic order for planes and market leader IndiGo is watching its every move quietly. Pieter Elbers, MD and CEO, InterGlobe Aviation (IndiGo), speaks to Swaraj Baggonkar about competition, the government’s UDAN scheme and expanding international business. Edited excerpts.
Is the 500 aircraft on order enough or is IndiGo preparing itself for any fresh orders?
IndiGo order sits in the top five in the world with close to 500 planes still to be delivered. This means we have a steady flow of deliveries till the end of the decade. We have flexibility on the leases phase out timings of the planes. IndiGo is in a very good spot. Now that Air India has placed this order and should IndiGo move? Indigo has always taken steps when it feels it was the right thing to do.
What is your target for the international market?
We have a 90% domestic share and 10% international in terms of number of passengers. In terms of available seat kilometres, it is in the low 20s (%) for international and high 70s (%) for domestic. We aim to move it to 30% in the next two years.
What are your views on the consolidation of the market?
India has not seen consolidation to the extent it has seen in other markets. Yet there is still a lot of space for others. IndiGo
Do you see pilot shortage becoming an issue?
With the further maturing of the Indian aviation landscape and IndiGo having the largest order, it will encourage younger people to choose a career in aviation. We cannot share the exact number of pilots we are recruiting every year.
Can you elaborate on aircraft leasing?
We have 300 aircraft in our fleet and every year a certain number of leases have to be returned and we are reviewing these returns. I cannot share the precise numbers as of now.
The government has pushed for the UDAN scheme. Has it turned out to be the way it was planned?
The government has a policy to develop air connectivity not just in the metros but in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities as well. I would not call them failures but yes, there have been routes which did not live up to the expectations in terms of passenger numbers. We do 400 routes with 78 destinations. In the summer schedule we will add 600 flights weekly.
In the long run, will it bring in the results?
Some routes work, some don’t. Some cities were not ready for it. When it was launched, there was a certain amount of expectation and a certain amount of knowledge. Unlike running an airline, even for the Udan scheme, we started to develop better collective knowledge. The scheme itself has a lot of value, that the precise application of the scheme may need to be tuned a little bit.
When do you start service to the US through codeshare?
We started our codeshare with Turkish Airlines and made it effective for the European network in February. As of today, we have approval for 30 destinations in Europe, which was 21 when we started. We have now applied to the US for approval.