A new airline - Fly91 - bets on regional connectivity

Fly91 will operate in the short-haul segment, in which flights last between 45 and 90 minutes
Last Updated : 10 January 2023, 23:33 IST

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Indian aviation just warmed up to the idea of servicing the under-served regional routes, with new airline christened Fly91 entering the fray. The new player targets taking to the skies in the last quarter of the calendar year.

The brainchild of aviation veteran and former executive vice-president of Kingfisher Airlines Manoj Chacko in collaboration with Harsha Raghavan, managing partner at Convergent Finance, the company Just UDO Aviation Private Limited will cash in on the UDAN scheme that has been promoting the underserved and unserved sectors.

Fly91 will operate in the short-haul segment, in which flights last between 45 and 90 minutes. The airline will serve India's regional airports, from where about 30 per cent of India's domestic passengers originate. A dedicated passenger airline, it will have a standard fleet of ATR 72-600 with a seating capacity between 72-78 seats per aircraft, Manoj Chacko, co-founder and CEO of Fly91 told DH.

The Goa-based airline will follow a dry-lease model for aircrafts and is all set to start operations with two aircraft, scale up to six in the first year and add 32 planes in five years of its operation. “Goa has got a natural affinity to traffic. People in smaller cities definitely aspire to travel to Goa. Our network is not going to be just flying in and out of Goa. There are many unserved underserved airports in an hour, and hour and a half-flying radius of Goa such as Kolhapur, Sholapur, Latur. We would access those cities and from there potentially operate into other cities as well,” Chacko elaborated.

Commenting on plans for Fly91 to sustain in the loss-making airline business, Chacko said, “We are looking at this as a transportation business, and not as a service business,” The airline will be based on a basic, no-frills model. It will be a supremely digital airline with extremely lean organisation and cost-effective operations with features like buy-on-board products.

“We will be market competitive on pricing, and will not do any predatory pricing” Chacko added.

Just UDO has applied for a No Objection Certificate (NOC) and for requisite security clearances from the Ministry of Civil Aviation. “We already have our initial flight team ready to come on board and start flying,” said Chacko.

"The India growth story goes beyond five metros, with nearly 50 cities having a population of more than one million. Manoj's vision to serve these cities and his decades of experience in India's airline and travel sectors makes him the kind of passionate entrepreneur whose idea we can back with our capital. As a co-founding partner, Convergent will work with Fly91 on matters such as operations, capital allocation, and long-term business strategy," said Raghavan in a press release announcing the formation of Fly91.

With many operators shutting down and financial struggles faced by regional airlines, the course of Fly91 will be interesting to watch. “The market for regional aviation is tremendous, the last India had, an operator of such credible focus (financial and operational stability) was when the government-owned a dedicated regional airline called Vayudoot in the 1980s,” said Mark Martin, CEO, Martin Consulting.

Published 10 January 2023, 16:23 IST

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