This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
Having been hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions, India’s largest low-cost carrier Indigo has converted 10 of its more than 250 aircraft to freighters and has now started offering aircraft charter under IndiGo Charter Services to boost revenue.
According to IndiGo chief commercial officer Willy Boulter, “Charter is a side business as our fleet is not fully utilized for the limited scheduled services at present.” Boulter added that charter is not a new business for IndiGo—the airline has in the past operated domestic charters and some international services on behalf of various governments and corporations.
“The aircraft are not modified in any way. We are offering both domestic and international charter to those companies and individuals who wish to have an aircraft dedicated to themselves,” said Boulter.
The move to start private jet charter is being seen as an astute move. “Any money is good money these days,” said an airline official. “IndiGo has fixed costs as far as its fleet of ATR and Airbus A320neos go. They have the pilots, slots at airports, operate from the same terminal as commercial flights, and handle their own ground handling. The only extra is fuel cost,” Vishok Mansingh, CEO of Vman Aero Services, told AIN.
For private charter, he said, the cost of flying a smaller airplane can often be more expensive than a narrowbody airliner. During the pandemic, flying a larger airplane will help in social distancing and also can be more comfortable, Mansingh added. Private charters are increasingly being used by businesses transporting staff to remote industrial towns, by families, and by high-net-worth individuals, he said.
Indian regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation preponed an earlier order permitting commercial and charter flights to start operating on May 25 instead of May 31. IndiGo has operated six special international charter flights since the beginning of June, it said.