Low-cost giant IndiGo expects to reach its pre-pandemic traffic levels by early 2021. The carrier is now flying over 1,000 daily flights as India’s domestic recovery continues. Cargo capacity has also been crucial this year, with IndiGo adding several new destinations domestically and internationally.
IndiGo recently hit a milestone of 1,000 daily departures earlier this month, flying to 59 domestic and six international cities. Before the crisis, the airline was flying over 1,500 daily flights to 63 domestic and 24 international cities. Considering the airline was flying zero flights back in May, this turnaround is quite exceptional.
Currently, the government has allowed airlines only up to fly 80% of their winter schedules. This means IndiGo would need the caps to be removed in order to reach 100% of pre-crisis levels. If this were to happen, IndiGo would likely move quickly to add more flights seeing the current levels of demand.
The recovery has seen IndiGo gain market share as some carriers slip behind. In November, IndiGo held a market share of just under 54%, far ahead of the 13.2% held by SpiceJet in the second place. Load factors have improved too, with IndiGo now seeing its planes 74% full, according to Mint, but remain much lower than before the crisis.
Cargo remains key
While passenger numbers have recovered well in the last few months, cargo remains a key part of the current model. While IndiGo does not have its own freighter aircraft, it has been using passenger planes for cargo-only missions. Speaking to Business Standard, Chief Commercial Officer William Boulter said, “We will continue the deployment of aircraft for ‘CarGo-in-cabin’ operations even after resuming 100 per cent pre-Covid capacity levels.”
The decision to continue flying cargo-only flights after the crisis means that IndiGo continues to see significant demand. The airline has flown cargo charters to several new international destinations, such as Bishkek, Cairo, Almaty, and Tashkent.
Positive news for the staff
While the pandemic has been particularly hard on airline employees, IndiGo is taking the first step towards normalcy. Starting January 1st, the airline is revoking its leave without pay policy across all departments. The decision to do so is based on a forecast of higher revenue next year thanks to domestic and cargo operations, according to the Times of India.
One area that remains underwhelming is international traffic. Currently, IndiGo is only flying to six “travel bubble” destinations out of its usual 24. The lack of international flights has hurt the carrier, but falling cases in India and the impending vaccine could help traffic next year as well.
For now, IndiGo is looking to keep its place at the top of the market and plans to return to profitability in the first half of next year. That does seem to be an ambitious goal but the current recovery could support such a plan.