IndiGo is aiming to gradually expand its flight operations and reach the pre-COVID-19 full capacity by the end of 2020-21 financial year, its president Wolfgang Prock-Schauer said on Thursday, adding that passenger and corporate bookings are bouncing back.
Currently, the country's largest airline in terms of market share is operating around 600 flights per day, which is around 42 per cent of its pre-COVID-19 domestic schedule of around 1,420 services. Prock-Schauer, who is also the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of IndiGo, told PTI in an interview that the airline is looking to resume flights to the neighbouring countries where it used to operate services before the coronavirus pandemic halted air travel.
"We are waiting for the Indian government to conclude its discussions with the neighbouring countries and establish bilateral air bubble arrangements," said the COO. IndiGo used to operate flights to neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal before the pandemic. Currently, IndiGo is operating special international flights to the UAE, Qatar and Maldives under the air bubble arrangements.
Under a bilateral air bubble pact, airlines of both the countries can operate special international passenger flights with certain restrictions. Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
IndiGo was allowed to operate 1,420 domestic passenger flights per day in its summer schedule during pre-coronavirus times, the COO said. It means the airline is currently operating around 42 per cent of its pre-COVID-19 domestic services. When domestic passenger flights resumed in India on May 25 after a gap of two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Aviation Ministry allowed the airlines to operate not more than one-third of their pre-COVID domestic flights.
On June 26, the limit was increased to 45 per cent. Two days back, it was further increased to 60 per cent. Prock-Schauer said, "There is a lot of uncertainty but every company must have its goals. The goal is to achieve a 60 per cent target by Diwali."
"Depending upon the government guidelines, we would like to achieve around 80 per cent by Christmas and then have the full operations by the end of the financial year," he added. Talking about the occupancy rate or load factors in flights currently, the COO said, "There are days when the load factor is in the low 70s (per cent), which is an okay number but we need to further....It is improving gradually".
He said that during the initial phase post resumption of domestic flights in May, a significant section of traffic was unidirectional towards eastern part of India as people were leaving the big cities to go to their home states. "Now it has been less unidirectional as people are also coming back to the big cities...You will see that it will become a more normal traffic pattern going forward," he stated.
He noted corporate bookings are also coming back now. "It is not to the level it has been but the corporate demand is coming back," he stated.