HomeWhat's TrendingEmerging Regional Carriers Aim to Capture Growing Short-Haul Flight Market in India

Emerging Regional Carriers Aim to Capture Growing Short-Haul Flight Market in India

With the rise in demand for quick, local flights in India, smaller airlines are growing their services. FLY91 is one such new airline that’s begun flying with two planes and aims to add 30 more within the next five years, aiming to connect more destinations across the country.

Marking its entry, FLY91 is set to commence flights connecting Bengaluru and Goa this month, addressing a market segment that was traditionally dominated by road and rail travel. The inauguration of FLY91’s inaugural flight was celebrated with a flag-off ceremony by Goa’s Chief Minister Pramod Sawant at the Manohar International Airport in Mopa, North Goa.

This surge in regional air travel comes at a time when conventional carriers, including market leaders like IndiGo and the Air India group, have largely overlooked this niche, focusing instead on larger aircraft and broader routes. Despite IndiGo operating a modest fleet of around 45 ATRs, the regional flight sector remains largely untapped, with less than 10% of the domestic fleet comprised of regional aircraft such as ATRs, Bombardier Q400s, and Embraers, representing a mere 3% of the total seating capacity in the industry.

FLY91’s entry into the market is a testament to the potential growth of regional air travel in India, fueled by a strategic business model designed to operate sustainably within this segment. This approach is seen as a positive development by industry experts, who recognize the untapped potential in regional air connectivity that has been somewhat neglected since the era of airlines like Vayudoot and Indian Airlines in the late 20th century.

The challenges faced by major airlines, compounded by supply chain issues, have left the regional connectivity market ripe for the taking. The government’s introduction of the ‘scheduled commuter airlines’ category in 2016, along with incentives such as viability gap funding and code-sharing arrangements under the Udey Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) scheme, further bolstered the prospects for regional carriers.

Despite the UDAN scheme’s partial success, with only 54% of the routes operational, the future looks promising for regional airlines like FLY91 and Star Air, who have crafted their business models independent of government subsidies, focusing instead on fundamental revenue strategies.

Industry veterans like Manoj Chako, CEO of FLY91, are optimistic about the exponential growth opportunities in the regional aviation sector, driven by India’s burgeoning middle class and the comparative infancy of the market in terms of airport density and consumer spending potential.

The journey ahead for regional airlines will hinge on adeptly managing operational costs, particularly fuel expenses while maintaining competitive fare structures to attract a broad passenger base. With well-funded and professionally managed entrants like FLY91 and the success of carriers like Star Air, the regional aviation space in India is poised for significant expansion, transcending the confines of the UDAN scheme and setting a new trajectory for accessible and efficient air travel across the country.

Rugmini Dinu