Friday, May 14, 2021

GoAir rebrands as Go First; promises cheaper fares, young fleet

GoAir has rebranded itself as Go First as the Wadia group-owned airline prepares for an IPO and ambitious expansion after a rocky period when the pandemic derailed the aviation sector.

The morning of May 13 saw page one advertisements splashed in newspapers across the country about GoAir becoming Go First. The logo on the tail changed in look and colour with a promise of cheaper fares, young fleet and safe operations.

By the afternoon, the airline formally said it was rebranding itself as Go First. The airline commenced operations in 2005 and has just over 50 aircraft in its fleet, even as rival IndiGo which started a year later is over 5 times in size.

The rebranding has not brought about immediate, visible changes on the ground, or it website, unlike some other cases like Vodafone’s acquisition of Hutch, when everything changed overnight.

GoAir started with having a different-coloured tail for each aircraft and different uniforms for the crew. The airline quickly changed track as it was difficult to maintain inventory of engineering parts with so many colours. With a handful of colours to just Grey and Blue and later just Blue - the standardisation happened nearly a decade ago.

The airline was all set for its next phase of growth -- having started international services and plans to induct a new aircraft a month -- until the pandemic struck. The airline is again planning to file for an IPO and list on the bourses to raise cash which is likely to be used to retire old debt, get immediate cash infusion to tide over the current crisis and plan its expansion.

With a fleet of over 50 aircraft, printing new safety cards placed in each seat pocket is a mammoth task since these aircraft come with 186 seats, adding up to about 10,000 such cards.

The aircraft - exterior and interior, check-in counters and offices would also involve expenditure for the airline that is going for ‘ultra low-cost’ operation.

The airline is likely to be the first all-neo airline in the country. This will give the airline a huge boost for the same reasons for which IndiGo is being hailed for phasing out the older planes. The airline will be spared costly maintenance and checks of its older aircraft.

With the problems of PRatt & Whitney engines resolved, and the A320neo improving its dispatch reliability, the airline is definitely poised for growth. The money raised from the IPO would help the airline get to Number-2 position in Indian skies.

GoAir does not have a great brand recall even after years of operations. A fresh and appealing brand creation strategy could go a long way to attract both investors and passengers.

In its advertisement, the airline has mentioned ‘Point to Point’ prominently. Like all its Indian peers, GoAir moved away from the point-to-point model long back, offering one stop flights and connections. The airline has also built hubs at Mumbai and Delhi, helping feed passengers to its flights from these two cities and offering pan-India connectivity. Will it move back to point to point? If it does, it may lead to opening up of many new markets.

13/05/21 Ameya Joshi/Moneycontrol

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