Airline Startup Of The Week: India’s flybig Airlines

India could see a new regional carrier in the coming months, with flybig set to start flights in October, once it has the necessary approvals. The airline plans to use a fleet of ATR 72s to connect remote parts of the country under the government’s UDAN scheme. The airline’s founder is also hoping to revive Jet Airways and create a network with flybig.

Turboprop ATR Getty
flybig will start operations with a fleet of ATR 72s. Photo: Getty Images

New regional carrier

flybig is another airline that had to delay its launch plans due to COVID-19. The airline was initially set to start operations in April but has delayed this roll out to October, still amid the pandemic. Only one hurdle now remains to begin flights, getting the all-important Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) from the government. Flybig hopes to receive this in the next month, with flights starting soon after.

But where will they fly? The airline’s leadership told Moneycontrol that the airline’s base would be in the central Indian city of Indore. From there, it will connect nearby cities such as Bhopal, Raipur, and later expand into larger markets such as Ahmedabad.

The airline is also eying flights in Northeast India, which will help connect the more remote regions of the state. flybig could deploy up to nine aircraft in the region, hoping to add new direct routes and tap into the underserved market.

Flybig aims to target cities under the government’s UDAN-Regional Connectivity Scheme, which gives airlines incentives to connect smaller Indian cities. Under this program, the government will also subsidize airlines to start these routes and also cut down government taxes for these routes.

Fleet plans

As mentioned before, flybig will start operations with a fleet of ATR 72s. The carrier’s first plane will arrive later this month and it is looking to pick up more aircraft from Australia. According to CH-Aviation, a dozen ex-Virgin Australia ATR 72-600s are parked in the country, which the airline will not use again.

Operations will start with two aircraft and slowly scale up to 20 aircraft in the coming years as demand returns to the market. The airline has begun hiring staff to start operations, indicating that its launch is imminent.

Is flybig looking to lease ex-Virgin Australia ATR 72s? Photo: Duan Zhu via Wikimedia Commons

To reach many remote parts of the country, flybig is also considering a purchase of four Dornier Do 228. The German-Indian manufactured turboprop is a utility plane that can seat up to 17 passengers. Flybig will use the aircraft to serve airstrips in remote regions, which may not have full airport operations. The utility plane can also be used as an air ambulance or for cargo when the need arises.

The Jet Airways angle

The founder of flybig, Sanjay Mandavia, is also a part of one of the two binding bidders for Jet Airways. In the interview with Moneycontrol, he said that Jet Airways would resume its older, popular routes, which would feed into flybig’s regional network. If this works out, the airlines will offer connectivity to underserved markets across the country.

737 MAX Jet Airways
flybig’s founder is also bidding for Jet Airways. Photo: Getty Images

However, regardless of what happens with the shaky Jet Airways bid, flybig will likely continue its regional plans. While starting an airline during this downturn might seem unwise, flybig is capitalizing on the lower lease rentals and availability of skilled staff due to recent layoffs. We look forward to seeing flybig’s plans!

What do you think about Flybig’s plans? Let us know in the comments!