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IndiGo’s flight schedule expected to be back to normal by next week: CEO

IndiGo, India’s largest carrier, is expecting its entire flight schedule to fully come back to normal in terms of on-time performance by next week, its chief executive officer (CEO) Pieter Elbers said here on Thursday. The airline along with other carriers has been facing harsh criticism from passengers on social media since Sunday morning as hundreds of flights across the country have been cancelled and delayed due to dense fog.

The company’s CEO rubbished reports on social media that IndiGo – due to its large market share – does not care for its passengers, saying: “You know what. I am going to be blunt with you. That is nonsense.”

“Can you run an airline of 3 lakh customers (per day) by just saying ‘I don’t care’? You can’t. Our frontline staff, our teams, they care a lot,” he said.

Market share is the outcome of what happened in the market, Elbers noted, adding, “We care for our customers”.

IndiGo has solidified its supremacy in the Indian aviation sector by increasing its domestic market share to 60.5 per cent in 2023 from 56.1 per cent in 2022. The airline carried 91.93 million domestic passengers in 2023.

Elbers said the situation on Sunday was so bad in Delhi that it was difficult to see even on the other side of the street due to dense fog.

“Then you have an airport with an infrastructure that has certain limitations. I don’t want to blame anyone. I don’t think it takes us anywhere if you start blaming. It is a collective challenge for us,” he noted.

GMR Group-led Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), which manages Delhi airport, is expecting to complete the work on the now-closed runway RWY 10/28 by Friday, the airport operator has informed the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA). The RWY 10/28 — which can handle flight landings (CAT-III) in low visibility — has been under refurbishment since mid-September.

Currently, only one — RWY 11R/29L — out of four runways at Delhi airport is capable of using the CAT-III system, which allows pilots to land when the visibility is as low as 50 meters.

As hundreds of flights at Delhi airport have been delayed and cancelled since Sunday due to dense fog, Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia on Monday told the GMR Group-led DIAL to accelerate the completion of work on RWY 10/28. On Tuesday, he reiterated that DIAL will operationalise the runway as soon as possible.

On fog-induced disruptions, Elbers said: “I made some comparison with Chennai, and what happened in the first week of December. We had cancelled hundreds of flights as the city was flooded. We were back (to normal) at an incredible speed of 36-38 hours. This was because it was all concentrated in one place…This one (fog-induced disruption) has been more difficult and challenging. What happened on Sunday created a cascading effect.”

“If you have 2,000 daily flights, you have got a massive machine. If the machine is disrupted, and if in one-third of your network, you have fog, the largest station of Delhi is completely blocked, it takes a couple of days to get it back to normal,” he noted.

“I would expect that the cancellation setting is completely back to normal, provided there is no more fog. It should be completely back to normal by the weekend. And in due course of the next week, I expect that our entire operation would be back to normal, including the on-time performance,” he added.

Elbers on Thursday also referred to a recent incident of a passenger assaulting one of its pilots as the flight was delayed due to fog, calling it “unacceptable”.

First Published: Jan 18 2024 | 9:38 PM IST

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