Taking steps to make flying safe and secure, the largest airline of the country is witnessing travel trends going up in terms of unit revenue and future booking since the resumption of domestic flights. Sanjay Kumar, Chief Strategy & Revenue Officer, IndiGo shares insights on the airline’s activities, plans for revival and future strategies along with benefits travel agents can avail with IndiGo’s newly launched charter services.
1.Since the inception of the domestic flights after lockdown, what kind of response you have from the fliers?
We were pleasantly surprised with the booking trends, showcasing a consistent demand even after the first few days of flying. We are quite encouraged after having the result of the first three weeks of travel resumption. We were aware that there was pent up demand that would play out in the first couple of days. We have analysed the traffic every five days and all the trends are up. Even though aircraft occupancy is not the same as pre-lockdown levels, it is encouraging that the demand is sustaining even a month after resuming schedule flights, the travel trend keeps going up in terms of unit revenue and future bookings. Where we stand now, we think 30% of capacity is too low. We feel very bullish about going to 50%.
2.What kind of safety and hygiene measures the airline is taking to ensure safe operations and also to restore the confidence of the flyers?
We are taking every step possible to make sure that our travel practices remain safe and secure. Some of the key safety measures include – ensuring that social distancing is maintained at all points – airport entry, baggage drop counters, security checks, boarding gates, coaches, ramp and baggage claim. The tray tables, armrests, overhead nozzles, lavatories and galleys are receiving special attention, given the frequency of contact. We are disinfecting the aircraft before every flight. In addition, we are also following a periodic fumigation of the aircraft. Customers are being provided with electronic receipt (SMS) of the checked-in baggage. We are handing over a safety kit to all passengers at the boarding gate to make sure they are covered. So far we have not come across any case of COVID-19 transmission onboard, making flying the safest mode of travel in the current scenario.
- The airline has announced to introduce passenger charter service looking at the present situation, how can tour operators make use of facility? Can they promote it and avail any benefits?
We do foresee a demand for a customised flying experience, with people prioritizing safety and social distancing during air travel. Charter flights are certainly an emerging trend. So far, we have seen demand for charter services from organizations for their employees and individuals for safe travel with their families. We are also seeing a sustained demand for international charters for repatriation of Indians stranded abroad. We are flying around 60-70 charters a week, including all CarGo missions, including both international and domestic charters.
Travel agents can apply for domestic trips for individuals, families, corporates, or leisure groups via our website or directly call our sales teams. For international charters, which are mainly repatriation flights at this point, these have to be approved by the relevant Indian Embassy and, again, initial application with IndiGo can be submitted on our website. The agents need to book domestic charters at least 10 days in advance, while a minimum of 3 weeks are required for international charters to arrange the requisite approvals. Number of travel agents are exploring this opportunity for their clients and our sales team is always at service to meet such requirements in a seamless and efficient way.
4.With the present scenario in Indian aviation completely changing due to COVID-19, how the future plans of the airline have been affected? Will there be an impact on fleet expansion as well?
We are confident that we will work through this setback. There are undoubtedly infrastructure problems, but we are making steady progress. The number of flights are increasing, some of the markets are showing business improvements as well. Therefore, we believe that the global aviation market will rebuild itself from this halt. So, we may have challenging situation currently to short term, but we are quite optimistic that India will continue to deliver growth of passengers in years to come.
Talking about the impact on fleet expansion, our focus is on managing our cash balance by reducing costs, maintaining liquidity, explore alternate sources of revenue and building consumer and employee confidence through a safe and hassle-free flying experience. We have taken undertaken measures like negotiating better prices and terms with our partners, staggered pay cuts, placing our discretionary expenses on hold and deferment of certain capital expenditure projects to reduce costs.
5.With cancellations and refunds being the major issue of contentions, what steps the airline is taking to resolve the queries of tour operators and travel agencies?
We understand the issue relating to the refunds and credit shells and we have addressed this in the best possible way. IndiGo has offered refunds against the DGCA order of 16th April,2020 to the customers and our travel partners also. We have also started adjusting Credit Shell amount for the travel agents prior to 25th March2020. In addition, we are also following the normal cancellation and refund policy for the booking/travel getting affected due to the limitations put by various state governments.
As we are extremely customer centric, very recently, after skies opened up and bookings grew, we extended the benefit of cash refunds to our travel agents and customers by revising our cancellation policy. To make it hassle-free, we have empowered our customers to make a choice digitally, to be able to either claim a full refund or rebook alternate flights at no extra charge. This refund is over and above the directive issued by DGCA to refund ticket amount for flights booked and scheduled to travel during lockdown period from March 24, 2020 to May 03, 2020.