IndiGo Turns 15: A Look Back

Today marks the 15th anniversary of IndiGo, the low-cost giant and India’s largest airline. The airline made its inaugural flight from New Delhi to Imphal, with a stop in Guwhati, on this day in 2006, kicking off an era of expansion. Here’s a look at IndiGo’s history and its plans for this important date.

IndiGo A320
From just over one A320ceo in 2006 to over 250 in 2021, the airline has grown exponentially. Photo: Getty Images

Upstart

IndiGo was founded in 2004 by Rahul Bhatia and Rakesh Gangwal, both bringing a history of experience to the airline. While new airlines usually don’t catch the eye at first glance, IndiGo was different. In 2005, it placed India’s biggest-ever aircraft order for 100 Airbus A320s, worth over $6bn, grabbing headlines and launching it into the market.

The first aircraft arrived at the end of July in 2006 and the airline was all set up to launch operations. At this time, Jet Airways and Indian Airlines dominated the market and low-cost airlines were the upstarts looking to break the status quo. On August 4th, 2006, IndiGo took off from New Delhi bound for Imphal, with a stop in Guwhati. Onboard were both Bhatia and Gangwal.

IndiGo VT-INA First Aircraft
IndiGo’s first A320-200 was registered VT-INA and was delivered a year after the initial order. Photo: Sumeet Mulani via Flickr

IndiGo’s low fares, on-time performance, and growing network all became big draws for passengers. Soon, the airline was picking up market share as it added new planes, outpacing all other startups at the time.

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Huge

As IndiGo began growing, it became clear that India’s aviation market was poised for an explosion. In 2011, the airline doubled down and ordered another 180 A320s, cementing its future as the country’s biggest carrier. With flying now far more accessible, IndiGo drove a shift in the market towards budget airlines and forced consolidation of full-service airlines.

At this time, IndiGo was the country’s second-largest airline and quickly closing in. As more planes joined the fleet, low-cost travel became accessible from new hubs and increased passenger traffic in the market. In 2012, IndiGo officially became India’s largest airline and overtook Jet Airways, ushering the low-cost era in Indian aviation.

INdigo A320neo
IndiGo’s decision to order big and early meant it was always at the front of the queue for new planes and found the best prices. Photo: Airbus

Along with others like SpiceJet and GoAir, there was a new top order in aviation, with budget airlines ruling the game. The pressure on full-service airlines has only grown, with Kingfisher and Jet Airways both shutting down, and Air India only surviving due to the government burning billions of dollars.

Future

Over the years, IndiGo’s profitability and operations have only grown and it now sits at the top of the market, with over 50% market share currently. As the industry revives from a pandemic, low-cost airlines will be hoping to continue their streak of success. With the international and regional markets still up for grabs, IndiGo will likely resume its expansion soon.

As Airbus’ biggest global customer, expect the airline to continue growing in the years to come and potentially fend off challenges from newcomers.

What do you think about IndiGo’s story? Will the airline succeed in the long run? Let us know in the comments!

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