It's difficult being a new airline in India
Cruising Heights|April - May 2021
Surviving as a new airline is difficult – in fact, unimaginable – in India. Witness the number of carriers that that have vanished without a trace. AMEYA JOSHI details the reasons why startup airlines are smothered by the larger entities.
AMEYA JOSHI

In the last days of 2020, the year most dreaded by the aviation community worldwide, a new airline took to the skies in India. Flybig, as the airline was named, had already operated its first flight between w and Delhi albeit with a SpiceJet aircraft! The airline announced a route network which would connect its base Indore with Raipur, Ahmedabad, and connect Ahmedabad with Bhopal.

Within days of announcing the routes, India’s largest airline by fleet and domestic market share – IndiGo – launched flights between Ahmedabad and Bhopal. A new airline like Flybig was hunted even before it could venture into the wild forest. Flybig has been cancelling flights, combining frequencies as it manages to plug the cash burn to sustain in current times where traffic is impacted further due to a rising second wave of COVID-19 infections and new travel restrictions across the country.

Flybig is not the first one in this saga! A staggering 14 airlines have merged or closed down in India in the last two decades! These include the likes of Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines which have been backed by powerful promoters yet raked up a few thousand crores in debt leading to their eventual fall as all sources of funding dried up and the airlines were not in a position to make money to cover its operating cost and pay for the interest over its existing debt.

This brings us to the basic question: Is it possible to start an airline in India and what exactly is needed to get it going? One cannot forget that the existing crop of airlines were once startups and have reached here only because they did well. When these airlines started, the incumbents tried to stop their progress but taking one step at a time these airlines have reached where they are today. Be it IndiGo, Go Air, or SpiceJet a decade-long experience has got them going while the latest ones like Vistara and AirAsia India have the backing of a large conglomerate like the Tata group.

Regional Connectivity and its failure

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