New Delhi: IndiGo’s first A321ceo freighter plane is scheduled to arrive on time during the first half of 2022 and it will show everyone that the airline is serious about growing its cargo business, the carrier’s Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) William Boulter has said.
On April 21, IndiGo had announced that it was in the process of leasing four A321ceo freighter aircraft, each having the capacity to handle 27 tonnes of cargo.
The CCO told PTI in an interview last week that IndiGo was not considering starting its own frequent flyer program right now and is focusing completely on co-branded arrangements with banks.
IndiGo airlines, in partnership with Kotak Mahindra Bank, had on December 14 launched a co-branded credit card which allows customers to gain points (6E Rewards) that can be used to purchase tickets on its flights.
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A similar co-branded credit card was launched by the airline, in partnership with the HDFC Bank and MasterCard, in February 2020.
On the question if IndiGo is considering to start its own frequent flyer program, he replied in negative. Boulter added, ”At the moment, our focus is very much on the co-branded (credit card) arrangements that we have come to with the banks. We believe that these (cards) deliver customers with a lot of benefits.” A frequent flyer program allows the passenger to earn points while booking the tickets of that airline. He or she can then use those points to purchase air tickets on the same airline or buy items or services from partner companies.
Boulter said IndiGo has the best frequent flyer program in the world and that is low fares. ”People seem to come back a lot to avail of those low fares. Our focus is very much on co-branded arrangement at the moment,” he said. 6E Rewards (IndiGo’s points system) provides a huge range of potential and capabilities to customers to earn points in a number of their shopping activities, everything from supermarkets to pharmacies to fuel purchase, he mentioned. ”We are very confident that our customers will take that up at a fast rate. We have been very happy with the development so far of 6E Rewards. I don’t think there is anything holding it back,” Boulter noted.
Talking about the airline’s cargo business, the CCO said, ”Our cargo business has been one of the successes during the pandemic. Actually, we have operated close to 8,000 cargo-in-cabin charter flights.” Domestically, the carrier was currently operating to 71 cities in India and each of those points has a cargo capability, he noted.
On the topic of aforementioned four cargo aircraft that have been ordered, he said, ”The first aircraft has just gone to Singapore Technologies Engineering Limited as it’s being converted (from passenger aircraft to freighter aircraft) as we speak. It will be out sometime in the first half of next year.” ”This will really be a statement to everybody that IndiGo is very serious about cargo and that cargo is going to become a significant part of our business,” he added.
When asked if the airline plans to expand the size of its order for cargo planes, he replied,” We have ordered four aircraft. We will see how the business develops. We will take further decisions later.” Boulter said he sees huge potential for cargo flights operating between India and China.
”We opened services to China before the pandemic — to Chengdu and Guangzhou. They were very successful in a very short time,” he said. Obviously, now, after the pandemic, the borders (with China) are closed for the passenger traffic but the freight market is very buoyant, he added.
A number of items that were required to fight the pandemic worldwide such as PPE and testing kits were produced in China in large quantities, he mentioned. ”We see a high demand of cargo out of China. We have operated a lot of charters over the last year, into Guangzhou in particular. During the second wave of the pandemic in India, we operated over 70 charter flights between Kolkata and Guangzhou to bring in oxygen concentrators,” he said.
”So, China will remain a significant manufacturing base obviously. That will generate a lot of cargo demand. As IndiGo, we are happy to serve that demand as far as we can,” he stated.
IndiGo is not operating cargo charter flights to China currently but it was always in touch with the agents in that market and there may be charter services in the future, the CCO noted.