Flight Plan

Shortage of P1 pilots may affect our growth plans: Truejet CEO

Updated on: Jan 23, 2018
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Regional carrier Trujet, promoted by the $3-billion Megha Engineering & Infrastructure, is all set to hit 1 million passenger-mark on the 13 city pairs where it now operates. The CEO of Turbo Megha Airways Limited, Vishok Mansingh, explains how it managed to achieve this despite a number of challenges. Excerpts:

How has Truejet’s progress been in the past two years, and how does it fit into the government’s UDAN initiative?

Trujet started operations in July 2015 with two ATR 72-500 and now operates four ATR aircraft;we havejust accepted [our] fifth aircraft. Our available seat kilometre (ASKM) growth has been more than 55 per cent year-on-year. There has been very good response from our target destinations, and the load factorfrom the early days was between 80-90 per cent, or even more depending on the routes. As one of the first players to start operations under UDAN, we have connected Kadapa-Chennai-Hyderabad, Mysuru-Chennai-Bellary, Bellary-Hyderabad and Nanded-Hyderabad and Mumbai. We are in the process of expanding our network to Salem and will add more city pairs under UDAN. We are also going to add new destinations once the UDAN II results are out. We are focussed on destinations that will benefit us and impact the local economy. For example, connectivity to Bellary has helped tourists visit places such as Hampi. This adds to the local economy, apart from boosting e-commerce. Connectivity to Kadapa means that travellers can fly in and out of Hyderabad on the same day. We are matching our growth by increased utilisation and addition of aircraft capacity. This will be done by adding aircraft, and by takeover/acquisition of aircraft from other airliners.

Are there concerns about finding pilots to meet your expansion plans?

There is a serious shortage of ATR 72 P1 pilots due to the very high demand worldwide. We, and other ATR operators, have serious constraints finding P1 pilots, which may affect our growth plans. The authoritieshave recognised this issue and are working on a new policy to ease the induction of trainers and instructors to enable airlines build local P1 pilots at a faster pace. This policy will also enable airlines share their trainers and instructors to enable and develop sufficient local P1 training and release of P1 for commercial operations. We believe there will be significant improvement in the availability of P1 pilots in 6-9 months.

You are close to hitting the 1 million-mark in a market which has seen a number of regional carriers collapse. How did Trujet manage these numbers?

Trujet is on course for hitting the 1 million-mark in January. Its success is due to its very strong financial backing from our parent group, Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Ltd, and controlled growth with very careful selection of networks and providing services as per demand at economic rates.

Does UDAN work out financially for airliners?

The biggest contribution of UDAN is aligning all stakeholders on a single platform. The scheme has also helped airlines financially by changing the cost structure to a reasonable level for business viability where airlines can afford to offer services at a price which the market can support. The large number of bids made in UDAN II, without any viability gap funding, indicates that the industry only needs a reasonable cost structure and minimum government direct subsidy.

Published on January 25, 2018

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