It becomes a cost issue as well due to higher payout to expats. We are looking to train in-house pilots to reduce dependence on foreigners.
Turbo Megha Airways, which operates a regional carrier under brand name TruJet, is banking on subsidised travel scheme – Udan – to grow its domestic presence. The Hyderabad-based airline has started operations on half of its 48 routes won under the Udan bidding. LSN Murty, CEO, TruJet, shares the carrier’s plan for 2019 with FEs Arun Nayal. Excerpts:
How many planes do you plan to induct in 2019?
We have 5 aircraft at the moment. We are planning to induct 2 to 3 more aircraft this year. These will be ATRs 500 or 600s. One would be coming in June and others in September or October. We were thinking of subleasing ATRs from other carriers till last year but that did not work out. So now we will look for lessors.
What are your plans for 2019?
Our focus this year is to complete Udan commitments, which form 60% of operations. We are operating on all 18 routes from the first round.
We have started operations on round two routes as well. We plan to start Ahmedabad–Kandla route from May 1 and are also linking Kohlapur and Belgaum from July. We want to stabilise operations under Udan in 2019 and then think about expansion to other parts of the country.
How has the performance under Udan been so far?
Udan routes are working out very well for us. Our average passenger load factor on Udan routes has been around 70%. Routes like Hyderbad-Nanded-Mumbai are drawing good response from passengers. We are expecting the passenger count to increase with greater awareness for Udan flights.
How are you placed in terms of availability of pilots?
Our only concern is availability of pilots. We don’t have many trained local pilots in the industry. There are no Indian commanders available for ATR fleet. We rely heavily on expat commanders for flight operations.
At present, TruJet has 20 expat commanders out of overall 30-odd pilots. It becomes a cost issue as well due to higher payout to expats. We are looking to train in-house pilots to reduce dependence on foreigners.