Wadia group-owned Go First expects to receive Rs 210 crore under the government’s credit line guarantee scheme next month as the budget airline seeks to boost its financial position and expand operations.
The airline, which received Rs 210 crore from the promoters last month, aims to have 53 operational aircraft in its fleet by the start of April this year, CEO Kaushik Khona told PTI.
The airline currently has 37 aircraft in operation.
Apart from the coronavirus pandemic headwinds and intense competition, the no-frills airline is grappling with the Pratt & Whitney engine issues that have forced it to ground many planes due to a shortage of spare engines.
Under the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS), which has come as a relief for many pandemic-hit sectors, Go First has so far availed Rs 600 crore.
With promoters’ infusing Rs 210 crore, the airline will be able to get an equal amount under the ECLGS next month, Khona said.
In an interview, Khona said the engine issues are “gradually” getting resolved, and 20 new engines from Pratt & Whitney are expected to come by April.
Twenty engines can help Go First operationalise 10 aircraft. One plane has two engines.
According to the CEO, seven new Airbus A320 neo planes will be inducted by April first week. Of this, the airline inducted one such plane last week.
Of the remaining six, two will come in February, three in March and one in April, he added. Going forward, he said, the airline will have 9 more new aircraft by March 2024.
Khona noted that in fiscal 2023-24, Go First aims to have 57% growth in passenger volume.
“Today, we already have 37 aircraft operational, and we are receiving 20 serviceable engines by March, which means by April 1, we will have 10 more aircraft in operation from the aircraft which are on the ground,” he said.
He said there will be 53 aircraft operating in the fleet by April. “This will help us operate 397-400 flights per day and this way, we will be surpassing the previous peak of both our daily number of flights as well as fleet by a huge number,” he said.
At the peak of operations, Khona said, the airline had 46 aircraft in operations, operating 333 flights per day.
Things at the airline are much more “stable” now, with grounded aircraft getting back into operations amid Pratt & Whitney supplying engines to the airline, he added.
Besides, fuel costs coming down to 42% from a high of 60% in September and rising air travel demand coupled with better yield is helping the carrier, he noted.
This month, aviation regulator DGCA imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh on Go First for an incident at Bangalore airport where 55 passengers were left behind in a passenger coach.
The airline entered January with advance bookings at 51%, and should be at the same level the next month also, said Khona, adding that advance bookings for the April-June period are also looking good.
“Going forward in April-June the airfares will pick up, and that is why we are giving benefits (by way of special fare offers) to passengers so that they can book in advance,” Khona said.
Go First currently has the best aircraft utilisation rate in the industry at 14.20 hours per day, operating on average 6.5 flights per aircraft per day, he said, but acknowledged that the airline’s On-Time Performance was a challenge.
“It is still a challenge as there was a lot of fog this time, and our exposure to fog in percentage terms is higher compared to any other airline because our operations are North dominant,” he said.
He, however, said that in January, the airline has seen substantial improvement in the OTP.