As Thailand becomes a hot destination for Indian tourists, Indian airlines are looking at the country in ways they have never done before. Some plan to use the country as their regional hub while also plotting routes now dominated by Thai Airways International.
The latest to enter the skies in Thailand is IndiGo Airlines, India’s best-known low-cost airline, which started operations to Bangkok last month after five years of domestic success.
The inaugural flight to New Delhi from Bangkok on Sept 8 had the president of the airline onboard to welcome his first guests from Thailand.
The airline will start flights from Bangkok to Mumbai this month, followed by new routes from India to Singapore, Kathmandu and Muscat.
“We’re looking 100% at the Asian market,” said president Aditya Ghosh in an interview at his office in Gurgaon, New Delhi. Excerpts follow:Why is the Asian market so important to your airline?
That’s where the business market is, as also the passenger capacity, and the growth in the airline business. There are not too many low-cost, high-quality airline in the Asian region.
What about AirAsia?
They’re a very good airline, very successful, and I respect them. But our reach in India is unbeatable. We fly to 29 destinations in India, and we will offer all these to our Asian travellers.
How have you fared in your five years of domestic travel in India, which is a very competitive market?
Yes, it’s a hugely competitive market, but we have flown nearly 33 million passengers in five years. Our market share today is 19.7%, making us the second largest airline in the country. Our technical dispatch reliability is 99.91%. These are pretty outstanding records, which is why we are sure of being as successful in Asia as in India.
What are your airline’s strengths?
Our strengths are our new, efficient aircraft, multicultural staff and superb timing. Our flights almost always reach destinations 15 minutes earlier than scheduled. Our philosophy is to make travel as hassle-free as possible — low-cost but high quality — and that’s why we are popular both with budget travellers and high-level corporations.
Is it true that you have tie-ups with many companies?
Yes, we’re the preferred airline of well-known companies like Tata, Wipro, and others. Some of our frequent flyers are bigwigs such as R.P. Goenka and Vikram Oberoi. Our record for impeccable punctuality has been responsible for our success with corporations.
Your airline is buying a huge number of new, state-of-the-art aircraft.
For our Asian routes, we will use 42 of our Airbus A320 aircraft, which are all less than two years old. By the end of the year, we’ll have 48 aircraft, and by 2015 we will have 100. These will include the new Airbus A320 Neo, for which we are the global launch customer. Between 2015 and 2025 we’ll acquire as many as 180 A320 Neo jets, making us one of the largest purchasers of the aircraft in the world.
How important is the Bangkok route?
Extremely important, because it’s our gateway to Asia. We have great support from the Department of Civil Aviation and hope to increase our flights to Bangkok, not just from Delhi and Mumbai, but from other destinations in India. There are huge numbers of Indian tourists coming to Thailand.
Will your current fares remain the same?
Our current fare of 6,727 baht return is not promotional but consistent. When the flying time from Delhi or Mumbai to Kerala is the same as to Bangkok, why should the passengers pay more? That’s why our Bangkok fare is the same as some of our domestic fares.
Do you have plans to launch any low-cost holiday-packages, together with low-cost airfares?
We already have. IndiGo recently started a new Get Packing website where we offer holiday packages, of varying categories, depending on the budget of the traveller. These include airfare, road transport, hotel and sightseeing. We target our customer database of one million a month and have already sold 1,000 packages in the low season. Our current packages are to Indian destinations, which I hope will bring more Thai tourists to India.
Which are your Indian routes that will appeal to Thai tourists?
Our inaugural flight had a big group of Thai tourists going to Srinagar, which I hear is very popular with them. We have three flights a day to Srinagar from Delhi, which will excite them. They can choose 28 other Indian destinations too.
Will Indigo Airlines try to fly to other destinations in Thailand?
Yes, we are trying to promote other Thai destinations to Indian tourists. Thailand is not just Bangkok and Pattaya. We are in talks with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and also with the Singapore Tourism Board, as we plan flights to Singapore next month.
Are your bookings done online?
We have very user-friendly website and we plan to start a Thai-language website soon. But bookings can also be done through travel agents.
Do you plan to fly to the holy Buddhist city of Gaya?
Yes, we are keen to start flights to Gaya from Bangkok next year. This will connect us to other Buddhist destinations in the region, such as Japan, Korea, and we can spread our wings in Asia.
Tell us about your parent company InterGlobe Enterprises.
InterGlobe Enterprises, where I’m one of six people on the executive committee, manages 13 international airlines in India. Recently it entered the hospitality industry, through a joint venture with the Accor group. By 2015, we hope to have 95 hotels in India. The company has more than 8,000 employees in India and annual turnover of $2 billion.
The airline has various charity-projects as well, is that right?
We believe in corporate social responsibility, and have various children’s foundations, especially for cancer. Our best-known is the Good Karma Foundation. IndiGo Airlines is about chasing dreams, and we want to give a chance to everyone to chase their dreams.