Regional airline Flybig has suspended ATR aircraft operations since November 8, and lessors started the process of repossession through GIFT city last week over unpaid dues. The airline had five aircraft, including three ATRs. The three ATRs operated on UDAN routes to the North East.
With the lessors repossessing the aircraft, operations to the North East will be impacted. Flybig has five aircraft in its fleet, including three ATR 72-500/600 and De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otters. One of the three ATRs has already been returned to the lessor last month, whereas lessors for the other two ATRs have started the aircraft repossession process. Aircraft leasing company Vman, which leased the ATR aircraft to Flybig refused to comment.
According to reports, FlyBig had won 84 routes under the UDAN scheme, and is planning to have a large base out of Lucknow. A majority of the airline’s operations are based out of the North East. Flybig has used its ATRs to operate flights from at least eight North Eastern destinations, including Guwahati, Tezu, Rupsi, Itanagar, Silchar, Pasighat among others. According to information on flightradar24.com, a flight tracking website, operations from all these airports have been curtailed for the past few days.
Earlier this year, the Assam govenment signed MoU with Flybig to start intra-state flight services operate flights between Guwahati-Dibrugarh-Guwahati and Guwahati-Silchar-Guwahati routes on a daily basis. However, according to the information from flightradar24, these flights haven’t been operated in over a week.
According to a recent report, the airline changed last year’s order for 10 De Havilland Q6-400 aircraft to the more economical Q6-300G, deliveries for which will start in the second quarter of 2024-25. However, there is no clarity on the same yet. Captain Sanjay Mandavia, Chairman and Managing Director of the regional carrier, did not respond to businessline’s queries.
According to data from the DGCA, Flybig had over 580 departures in July and 569 in August. In September, over 5.36 per cent of its flights were cancelled. The airline, in January 2021, had to defer salary payments and induction of aircraft. The airline doesn’t have a full time CEO, CCO, and until recently, the airline did not even have a CFO. It recently hired Gokul Indani as its CFO.
Gokul Indani said: “Flybig would like to emphasise that current events are a result of our decision to surrender the ATR aircraft due to the aircraft’s technical issues. Decision was brought on by a global shortage of spare parts, which has extensively affected our fleet’s operational efficiency, inadvertently leading to spiked costs and delays. Moreover, owing to certain technical concerns with the aircraft, we’ve had no choice but to pause our operations in the northeast.”
Indani further said that “we promise our loyal customers that we are actively pursuing alternative solutions and hope to resume our operations at the earliest”.