Flight Plan

We will boost business travel, pilgrimage tourism: FlyBig CEO

Forum Gandhi | Updated on January 10, 2021

Sanjay Mandavia

Pilot-turned entrepreneur Sanjay Mandavia, who had placed a qualifying bid for Jet Airways, has now launched a regional airline — FlyBig. The Mumbai resident shares the details of the plans he has for the airlines with BusinessLine.

At a time when national carriers are finding it difficult to sustain their operations, the December 2020 launch of a regional airline comes as a surprise. What makes you think FlyBig will succeed?

There may have been multiple reasons for the failure of regional airlines. One of them was lack of funding, domain knowledge, choice of aircraft and external factors like higher ATF. However, India has a lot of potential, and I see a gap that can be filled. We are the only new airline post-covid-19, at least in this side of the world. We are sure that the industry will bounce back. If we start at this time, we benefit from the tailwinds and the lower leases. The leasing of aircraft too is at about 20-25 per cent lower than usual. It gives us a better negotiation power and increases our margins.

What type of aircraft and route map will the airline have?

We had a plan to initially induct five aircraft, but because of a slight delay in receiving necessary permissions, we will now induct three aircraft this fiscal. All our aircraft will be leased aircraft. For FY22, we would want to establish ourselves as a UDAN-4 leader and have been awarded 15 routes.

Over the next three years, we plan to also induct LX7-20 TurboProp aircraft. These will operate on the hub and spoke routes. We will have three hubs: Guwahati, Indore and Varanasi. We plan to connect to cities for business travellers but also boost leisure and pilgrimage tourism. We have 100 employees as of now and want to keep a low man-to-machine ratio to keep costs in check.

Why did you choose the 72-seater ATR-72 500 aircraft?

It is an economical aircraft. No airline in this country that has operated the ATR has ever lost money. The system safety record is good and one does not require so much of manpower. We plan to induct 24 aircraft, to have a strong base in tier 2 and 3 markets. For that to happen, we need a good market cap. We plan to invest ₹100 crore for expansion later.

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Published on January 10, 2021
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