flypop has sights on becoming the first British low-cost carrier (LCC) flying to second cities across India. The airline plans to provide affordable direct flights to the South Asian country, catering to a market that has plenty of growth potential. Speaking exclusively to Simple Flying at our recent webinar, the company’s CEO, Nino Judge, explained the demand for these nonstop services, along with the carbon-negative prospects on the cards.
A large presence
European carriers primarily focus on India’s megacities, such as New Delhi and Mumbai. There have been some airlines that have experimented with flying to bubbling-under locations, but the overall emphasis has remained on flying from hub to hub.
However, large proportions of the Indian diaspora in the United Kingdom trace their routes to regions that are quite distant from the major cities. For instance, there are approximately 600,000 people with Gujarati roots in the UK. Meanwhile, there are around 600,000 people of Punjabi origin. These two groups alone make up the majority of the Indian diaspora in the nation.
Those that form the two segments regularly fly to India to visit family or go on holy visits to the likes of Amritsar. However, in order to fly to airports in these areas, they often have to connect in Delhi or Bombay, leading to lengthy, complicated, and expensive journeys.
Additionally, it has become the norm to hear of passengers opting to connect in third countries for cheaper options. Moreover, many members of the diaspora don’t live in Greater London. Thus, they have added time and cost added to their trip, navigating in from the likes of Birmingham and Leicester.
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Taking all the factors into account
Judge highlights how high the demand for nonstop direct flights to second cities is. He adds that statistic websites may not show the bigger picture, as they don’t take into account bus, train, or car journeys for those that land in India.
The executive notes that the number of travelers flying to Amritsar and Ahmedabad nonstop is actually 200,000 return. The number of visitors that just deal with landing in the likes of Delhi and making their own way to the final destination is around three times higher.
“You can’t get the stats of somebody going to Delhi and then catching a £10 taxi up to Amritsar or a £10 taxi to Ahmedabad,” Judge told Simple Flying.
“I’ve lived this. This is what we do. We fly to Delhi, catch a £10 taxi that takes eight hours, and you take your life in your own hands, basically, on those roads.”
The aircraft of choice for these low-cost, long-haul trips is the Airbus A330. This plane will undoubtedly help the airline achieve its low prices, along with the firm’s determination to dive deeply into the prospects.
“Everything is cost. If you’re going to be a low-cost, long-haul, everybody says, ‘Oh, it’s not worked. It’s been tried.’ It’s never been tried properly. It’s been flirted with. We are going to live and breathe, and hopefully not die, low-cost, long-haul,” Judge added.
“Everything is the price saving that we pass on to the customers to achieve that £99. We could have gone for really nice new neos or the 787s that Norwegian didn’t want anymore, but we went for the best value, slightly older 330s, where we could drive the price down. It has a high-density configuration, and that’s how you truly get low cost.”
The airline was planning to launch last October as the peak months to South Asia are the winter months rather than the usual summer months for many nations in the Northern Hemisphere. However, the plans were pushed back amid the pandemic. Therefore, the carrier is being flexible with its launch as it navigates the complex conditions with the ongoing health crisis.
Nonetheless, Judge is confident of high yields once flights get going. He highlights that Air India previously tested the waters with its route from London Stansted to Amritsar, where there were load factors of approximately 90% on an average fare of £600. Therefore, there have been high yields on the sorts of routes that flypop will operate on.
With the high yields, flypop is also looking to achieve sustainability goals. Interestingly, it’s actually looking to fly carbon negative.
The name flypop even came from Judge’s father, who sadly passed away from coronavirus last year. Judge is looking to carry on his father’s ambitions by putting “pop over profit,” which, in practice, means putting society over profit.
“Aviation is is a wonderful venture connecting people from all over the world – the diaspora that’s been spread apart. But if you can do that in a sustainable way, nobody needs to feel guilty about flying long-haul. Because you’re in a high-density aircraft, you have the lowest footprint, and we will plant one tree for every return passenger,” Judge shares.
“So, sit there and relax. The statistics are – for a 10-hour return flight, it’s one tonne of carbon dioxide. A mangrove or a pine tree takes in one tonne of carbon dioxide over 20 years. So, if the flights are shorter than 10 hours return, you’re actually going to be carbon negative. So how amazing would that be being able to fly to India carbon negative?”
Notably, the company is looking to start flights as low as £99 one way. As a result, India’s second cities can expect flocks of visitors from the UK with these low rates.
What are your thoughts about flypop’s plans for its trips to India? Will you be looking to fly with the airline following its launch? Let us know what you think of the carrier’s plans in the comment section.