On December 14, 2020, India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) gave Flybig, a new regional airline, permit to begin operation under its UDAN scheme that bolsters regional air connectivity in India.
Flybig made its inaugural flight on January 3, 2021, from Indore to Ahmedabad, in an hour and five minutes. Here is everything you may want to know:
- The airline is founded by pilot-turned-entrepreneur Sanjay Mandavia (he was in the senior management of the now-bankrupt Kingfisher Airlines), who has made a qualifying bid for Jet Airways. His aviation dream included launching a domestic airline and taking over the beleaguered Jet Airways, which is going through insolvency proceedings. His firms — Flight Simulation Technique Centre (FSTC) and Big Charter — are collaborating with Dubai-based investment banking and wealth management provider Imperial Capital Investments, to bid for Jet Airways.
- The airline uses an ATR aircraft, purchased in Australia, and is adding on another to its kitty.
- For now, Flybig will fly thrice a week, with the potential of scaling up to five flights a week by mid-February.
- Besides the Indore-Ahmedabad sector, it has added Indore-Raipur and Ahmedabad- Bhopal to its network. With Indore as its central hub, Flybig will eventually add on Jabalpur and other Tier 3 cities such as Bilaspur and Satna in Bihar, Rourkela and Lanjigarh in Odisha, and Ujjain and Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh to its network. “Many people continue to go back home to spend time with family or travel in India, as international tourism remains shut. The interest in regional tourism is likely to stay high,” says Mandavia.
- Flybig’s maiden flight, however, was not the Indore-Ahmedabad one. On December 21, the airline operated a chartered flight from Delhi to Shillong, at a time when the Meghalaya government opened up the state to domestic tourism. The aircraft was taken on wet lease from Spice Jet. The aviation industry fledgeling has won a tender to operate the Delhi-Shillong route via a charter flight for three years.
- The big focus region for Flybig is the secluded north-eastern states of India, which are rather large on tourism potential but lack connectivity. The plan is to set up a base in Guwahati and operate to large north-eastern metros such as Imphal, Aizwal and Tezpur.
- Flybig follows a hybrid model: while it serves snacks on board, there will be no meals served because of the far shorter flying time.
- Across all its network, the airline plans to operate a happy blend of commercial and UDAN flights that are subsidised by the government.
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