IndiGo to gradually ramp up ops once lockdown is over, says CEO

India’s largest domestic airline IndiGo will gradually ramp up operations and discontinue on-board meal services for a brief period after resuming services, chief executive officer Ronojoy Dutta said. All flights in India have been grounded at least till 14 April as part of the national lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a mail to IndiGo employees, Dutta said the airline will “run its coaches at a maximum load of 50% capacity”, adding the airline is looking to change many operating procedures to minimize costs. “We will be coming out with the new set of operating procedures soon.”

India is going through a three-week lockdown to contain the spread of covid-19. However, the central government could extend the lockdown further following requests from several state governments and experts.

“We don’t know when the lockdown will be lifted, but our plan, going forward, is to start the airline up slowly at first and gradually ramp up the capacity,” Dutta said. “In situations like these, companies don’t manage to (attain) growth or profitability but (focus on) liquidity. That means our singular focus is on cash flows.”

India’s aviation industry is expected to post losses of $3-3.6 billion in the June quarter because of covid-19, with airlines bearing the brunt, aviation consultancy firm Capa India had said in a report last week.

Domestic air passenger traffic is expected to drop from an estimated 140 million in FY20 to 80-90 million in FY21. International traffic is expected to almost halve from around 70 million in FY20 to 35-40 million in FY21, Capa India had said in the report.

Loss-making national carrier Air India Ltd’s finances has been badly hit by the pandemic. In a message to employees, Air India’s chairman and managing director, Rajiv Bansal, on Thursday said that the crippling effect of covid-19 has driven its finances to a precarious position, but despite that, it has managed to stay afloat.

“Air India has been passing through a critical financial condition much before the covid-19 onslaught. The crippling effect of the pandemic has further plummeted our finances to a precarious position. In spite of this, your airline has left no stone unturned to continue to remain afloat,” he added.

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