IndiGo, the largest Indian airline with a fleet of 259 aircraft, has proposed to operate relief flights for carrying food and medicines to remote areas free of cost. This was announced by the airline’s CEO Ronojoy Dutta Wednesday.
IndiGo has been authorised by the government to operate 30 relief flights, but Dutta said the airline wants to do more without charging the government.
The airline has a fleet of 219 Airbus A320 aircraft and 25 smaller ATR-72 jets which can fly to remote areas. It flies to 63 destinations in the country including six cities in North Eastern area – Imphal, Shillong, Aizawl, Dimapur, Agartala and Guwahati.
With passenger aircraft movement banned, IndiGo feels its fleet can be used to ferry essentials across the country. While it has become an alternative revenue source for other airlines, IndiGo wants to do it for free. “Charging for transporting emergency medical supplies in the middle of a pandemic is not a profit opportunity moment for IndiGo. It instead is a Vande Mataram moment for us,” Dutta said.
Last week, aviation regulator DGCA allowed passenger aircraft to ferry cargo in order to boost up the country’s supply chain system, which has been under severe stress ever since the lockdown was imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 25. However, the government’s finances are stretched and it has been leaning on public sector company Air India and Alliance Air to do bulk of the work. “Air India and Alliance Air are ferrying cargo at a minimal cost, which is just the cost of operating such flights,” civil aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said last week. According to data provided by the government more than 70 per cent of the flights were operated by Air India, Alliance Air and Indian Air Force.
Other private carriers such as SpiceJet and Blue Dart are also carrying cargo, but on a commercial basis.
IndiGo’s offer to ferry supplies free of cost could provide some major relief to the nation. The airline had a cash reserve of about Rs 9,500 crore as of December 2019 and is best suited to weather the crisis.
“We know how critical it is for health workers in every corner of the country to get immediate access to medical supplies, and are grateful to be allowed to play a role, however modest, in this supply chain,” Dutta said.