Monday, January 01, 2018

An aviation revolution is in the air, says SpiceJet Chairman Ajay Singh

SpiceJet expects its net worth to turn positive by March 2018 and improve from then on, chairman Ajay Singh told Mihir Mishra in an interview. He said this year will be important for the airline as it inducts new aircraft, and seaplanes can make every river a runway and every pond an airport. The airline, he said, will work towards improving profitability, adding new routes and launching flights on regional routes in a big way under the second phase of the government's Ude Desh ke Aam Nagrik (UDAN) scheme. Edited excerpts:

How was 2017 for SpiceJet?
2017 was a fantastic year for us. We placed the largest orders in the history of SpiceJet and in the history of Boeing from this part of the world. These orders found a mention by US President Donald Trump. Operationally, the company did exceedingly well in terms of load factors, which were in excess of 92% every single month of the year and our on-time performance remained among the best. Financially, every single month and quarter was profitable for us. We had more and more people fly SpiceJet and our cancellations were among the lowest. During the year, we also demonstrated an out-of-the-box solution for areas with no airports through an amphibian plane (seaplane), which shows that every river can be a runway and every pond can become an airport. That opens up the entire country to aviation and the aviation revolution can then touch every citizen of our country.

Can SpiceJet sustain this tempo in 2018?
It is going to be an important year. This is the year when deliveries of our new planes begin. New planes will reduce cost as well as improve the passenger experience. We will add about 16 planes during 2018, which will be a mix of Boeing and Bombardiers. It will be an important year as we work towards improving profitability and adding new routes, and also launch flights on regional routes in a big way, as we participate in the second phase of the UDAN scheme.

The airline's net worth continues to be in the negative even as it has been making profits ever since you took over. When do you expect this important financial benchmark to turn positive?
We inherited the airline with a large negative net worth. Since the change of ownership, every quarter has been profitable. We expect to become a company with positive net worth by the March of 2018, only improve from there on. The first two years of funding for the large aircraft order have already been arranged. We will induct about 35 aircraft in the first two years through sale and leaseback and may explore cheaper models for aircraft induction in the future.
01/01/18 Mihir Mishra/Economic Times