Perfect 10 for Air India Express
Airline to celebrate a decade of operations with announcement of first profit
Dubai — India’s no-frills airline Air India Express, or AIE, marked its 10th year of operations in style with a dramatic turnaround to profitability for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015.
AIE, which is on the track of a rebound with a strategy for fleet expansion and increasing capacity utilisation, is projected to post for the first time in its history a profit, according to Prem Sagar, manager for Dubai and Sharjah at Air India/Air India Express.
He said the airline has yet to announce details.
Sagar said the low-cost carrier that made a modest beginning 10 years ago with a fleet of three leased aircraft that were operated between three airports in Kerala to six destinations in the Gulf has over the past 10 years become popular among Indian expatriate communities.
“Over these years, Air India Express has expanded its wings to other potential markets. The airline now connects 11 Indian tier-2 cities to 12 international destinations, in the Gulf and South East Asia. Its present fleet size comprises 17 Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft,” he said.
Sagar said AIE offered 50 free round-trip tickets through lucky draws and also enhanced the free baggage allowance by 10kg to a total of 30kg on its Gulf-India sectors until May 2015 as a part of the 10th anniversary celebrations.
K. Shyam Sundar, chief executive officer of AIE, was recently quoted by the Indian media as saying that the airline was expecting “a modest profit” of Rs280 million and revenues of Rs21.110 billion in fiscal 2015.
“That is probably the first time we are going to make profits in a few years’ time,” said Sundar.
AIE had reported a loss of Rs3.51 billion in fiscal 2013 as it was significantly affected by the strike of the Indian Pilots Guild between May and August of 2012.
According to Sundar, AIE, which at one point of time had 25 aircraft but now down to 17, has a turnaround plan to boost its fleet strength to 36 aircraft by 2018. He said AIE is currently in the process of getting eight brand-new Boeing 737-800 NGs on dry lease from leasing companies in Abu Dhabi and Singapore.
If this exercise goes successful, the company will be able to induct these aircrafts between now and March 2016 to fill the gap in its schedules.
“Currently there are only five flights a week between Thiruvananthapuram and Dubai, which we want to make daily. Likewise, there will be daily flights on the Pune-Dubai and Jaipur-Dubai routes,” Sundar said. AIE is also looking at increasing the frequency of flights connecting Kerala with Dammam, Doha and Muscat.
AIE is also looking at the prospects of venturing into new markets including Iran and central Asian countries. “Almost 85 per cent of our capacity is now deployed in the Middle East. Southeast Asia accounts for only eight per cent of our capacity distribution, which we want to improve with the new aircraft,” an Indian newspaper quoted Sundar as saying.
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