After monopolizing Indian skies , Indigo turning into a dictator?

On 194 of the 531 routes that IndiGo operates, the airline had an absolute monopoly. On several routes, it muscles out competitors by increasing frequency of flights or through better fares.

Once again Indigo Airlines is in the headlines after Indigo Airlines signed a record aviation deal worth USD 50 billion to buy 500 Airbus A320 family aircraft. IndiGo’s recent order has brought its total aircraft count to around 1,000, to be delivered over the next decade.  While these developments are undoubtedly positive for the aviation industry in India which is known as the ‘graveyard’ of the aviation industry , they also raise pertinent concerns that deserve our attention.

IndiGo’s soaring market share, which surpassed 60 per cent after the grounding of Go First, has put the airline in a near-monopoly position. Every second ticket sold in India is now from IndiGo, and on specific routes, the majority of tickets are sold by this airline alone. In contrast, the next closest competitor, Air India, holds a mere 9.4 per cent market share. Even if we consider all the airlines under Tata Sons’ portfolio, their combined market share amounts to around 18.2 per cent, less than one-third of IndiGo’s dominance. Furthermore, IndiGo’s fleet size of 300 aircraft is three times larger than Air India’s, solidifying its position as the largest fleet owner in the country.

While other airlines such as Go First are reporting bankruptcy and are facing difficulty in managing expenditures and maintenance charges , Indigo airlines is yielding a good profit . However, with power comes responsibility, and the onus of sustaining the profitability of airlines falls on the player with the largest market share. Unfortunately, this responsibility is seldom fulfilled.

A significant concern arises when a single player, especially in the airline industry, achieves a near-monopoly status. This situation grants the player considerable pricing power, which can lead to the manipulation of airfares. With this pricing power, airlines may operate specific routes at a loss to eliminate competition. Moreover, reliance on a single airline can prove disastrous for all stakeholders if the airline suddenly collapses, as witnessed in the case of Jet Airways.

After conquering the Indian skies with its unique business model , Indigo is ruling the aviation industry. As of January 2022, Indigo Airlines was India’s largest passenger airline. According to Indigo, it serves on three pillars of low fares, on-time arrivals, courteous and hassle-free experience. Because it is the most popular and widely used airline , one could expect the airline’s behaviour and services to be of the highest quality. Still ,there’s hardly a day when scuffle between Indigo staff and passengers is not surfacing on social media and Twitter. Its very frequent to come across incidents of Indigo’s staff misbehaving with passengers or not cooperating with passengers and in some cases even manhandling the passengers.

Supriya Unni Nair, a Bengaluru resident and former journalist, complained about social media about the “abuse” she and her mother received on an IndiGo flight on Monday. When she requested wheelchair assistance for her 75-year-old mother, Vijayalakshmi, on an IndiGo flight from Chennai to Bengaluru, Captain Jayakrishna shouted and threatened to arrest them both. She attempted calling the assistance bell when the flight landed in Bengaluru, despite having requested a wheelchair in advance, she said in her article. When the crew didn’t reply, she asked for assistance, and the Captain stepped out and began shouting at her, according to Ms Nair. Though the the accused pilot was removed from the duty after thorough investigation of the matter.

Not only are the passengers are ill-treated, but even the cabin crew get harassed by the pilot in Indigo airlines.

A female cabin crew member of domestic carrier IndiGo accused a pilot of the same airline of sexual harassment.

According to her complaint to the Delhi Police, the alleged occurrence occurred on April 16 while the flight she was aboard was cruising, and the co-pilot was in the restroom.

She had gone to offer the pilot hot water and was seated as an observer when he asked her for a selfie and then groped her, according to the victim.

Recently , Indigo received poor scores from Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport and Tradition. Panel chairman , Derek O’ Brienm, in his report stated that the airline has poor customer services , rude employees and high prices during holidays .

SpiceJet’s chairman, Ajay Singh, raised this issue at an industry conference a few years ago without mentioning the airline. He emphasised that monopolies harmed businesses and called on the government to address the matter.

Multiple approaches can help maintain a balance in the industry. Still, the government must acknowledge the pitfalls of a single player dominating most of the market share for that to happen or else incidents of harassment and manhandling will continue.

/ Post Alok Kumar

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