IndiGo, India’s biggest airline, could start slowly rehiring staff in three months as capacity rebuilds from “the background of carnage” caused by Covid-19, with domestic services likely to return to pre-pandemic levels by January or February, Chief Executive Officer Ronojoy Dutta told Bloomberg.
IndiGo Could Re-hire
“Doom and gloom is off the table and we are recovering pretty nicely, especially domestically,” Dutta said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Wednesday. The recovery in international capacity will take longer due to quarantines and virus flareups in places such as the U.K., but the airline is hoping it will be back to normal levels by the end of 2021, according to Mr. Dutta.
IndiGo, which has some 730 Airbus SE A320neo planes on order, laid off about 10% of its workforce due to the pandemic-driven slowdown. The carrier, operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., still sees ‘a lot of room’ for growth in international routes, particularly those of about six hours duration that can be served by single-aisle narrow-body aircraft, Dutta said. India’s hubs are well positioned, he said.
Recovering From ‘Carnage’
Rather than having too many planes on order, IndiGo may have not ordered enough given the huge growth potential for air travel in India as the middle class expands and more people start to fly, Dutta said. The company is in early discussions with engine manufacturers for planes due for delivery from 2024.
The chief executive said IndiGo, which in August announced a share sale to bring in as much as 40 billion rupees ($540 million), isn’t looking to raise more funds. The company’s strategy remains focused on reducing costs and rapidly growing its operations, Dutta said.
Earlier this week, Indigo announced it was upgrading its Plan B option which will allow those customers whose connecting flight has been cancelled, to either rebook partially – from origin till transit station or from transit station to destination – or take refund for the unused sector.
The new option has been made available across the airline’s website and mobile app.
The airline said that this new option will provide greater flexibility to customers in case of limited options, delays or cancellations, especially owing to fog or other adverse weather conditions.
“We are pleased to update our Plan B options for connecting flights. This additional alternative will allow customers to rebook or refund a part of their journey as per availability, offering more flexibility and choice. It will certainly help customers in situations of extreme weather conditions, wherein the chances of flights getting delayed or cancelled increase. We strive to keep adding new ways to offer hassle-free travel experience to our customers, on-board our lean clean flying machines,” IndiGo’s Chief Commercial Officer William Boulter said in a company statement.
The airline has partnered with car rental company Urban Drive so that passengers can book self-driven and chauffeur driver services across 60 cities in India. Passengers can book this service using the airline’s website.
“Through this collaboration, IndiGo customers will be able to book a chauffeur-driven cab service across 60 cities which are serving 42 airports on IndiGo domestic network: with options of hourly, intercity and airport transfer packages,” it noted.
The additional benefits of booking through this collaboration would be that the passengers will not have to pay any waiting or cancellation charges for the service incase of delay or cancellation of their flights.
Meanwhile, the airline in December IndiGo said it has reached 70 per cent of its pre-COVID capacity and is operating 1,000 daily international and domestic flights. India resumed domestic passenger flights on May 25 after a gap of two months due to the coronavirus-triggered lockdown.
IndiGo it has already processed close to Rs 1,000 crore of refunds, which makes up 90 percent of the total amount owed to the customers.
Multiple airlines had decided not to refund the amount owed to customers but to keep the amount in a credit shell. Passengers could use these credit shells to book on a later date, but with certain restrictions.