Snajay Mandavia's Flybig plans to start operations before the end of the year.
The Indian aviation industry get its newest airline Flybig, in the first week of 2021. The airline begins operations from its Indore base today (January 3), from where the inaugural flight to Ahmedabad will take off at 2.30 in the afternoon. Duration of the inaugural flight is an hour and five minutes.
In the initial couple of weeks, the airline founded by Sanjay Mandavia - a pilot-turned-aviation entrepreneur - will operate thrice a week. "We will later scale up to have five flights a week, from mid-February," CEO Srinivas Rao told Moneycontrol.
From January 13, Flybig will add the Indore-Raipur route in its network. And from February 1, the airline will begin flying from Ahmedabad to Bhopal. By the end of March this year, the airline will have daily flights connecting all the three tier-2 cities.
Flybig has an ATR aircraft, and is in the process of getting a second one.
"We opened up bookings two days ago. The interest is good and we have seen bookings of 25 percent," Rao, added. The airline has tied up with over 15,000 agents, many of them in the tier-2 cities. Talks are also on with online travel agencies.
The airline, which organised a 'special flight' for a differently abled on December 31 in Jabalpur, will add the city in its network in the second stage.
The launch of the new airline comes even as the domestic air traffic continues to improve, having got a push during the festive season and year-end travel. While the government had hiked the cap, enabling airlines to now use 80 percent of their capacity, the hope is now that this will be eased further.
Some concerns remain. Despite the governments beginning to administer vaccines, a new strain of COVID-19 has again brought back fears, especially for international travel. As a precautionary measure, India has suspended flights to the UK, where the new strain originated, till January 7.
Read more: Sanjay Mandavia may not have got Jet Airways, but his Flybig is set to take off in January 2021
The airline, which had gotten its permit from regulator DGCA on December 14, partly began operations on December 21, when it operated a chartered flight with the aircraft taken on wet lease from SpiceJet. The airline flew from Delhi to Shillong, to coincide with the Meghalaya government's step to open up the state for tourism as domestic travel recovers gradually from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We have won the tender from the state government to operate the Delhi-Shillong flight for three years," Rao had told Moneycontrol. From January, the company will operate two weekly flights on the route. Eventually, added the senior executive, the company plans to deploy its own aircraft on the route.
The airline will follow a hybrid model, by serving snacks on board, but un-bundling other services. "We don't want to sell food on-board as the flying time is less. That will prevent us from giving a proper service and could lead to frustration among fliers. Thus we opted to offer snacks as part of the ticket," he said.
Post the launch, the airline will look to serve tier 3 cities such as Bilaspur and Satna from Bhopal.