It took a spunky airline to demonstrate that even in India’s crowded aviation market, low fares do not necessarily beget low-quality service. The no-frills IndiGo has blossomed into the country’s largest airline—it took delivery of its 100th aircraft in November 2014 and reached a high of 33% market share—as well as its rare profitable one. The 10-year-old airline has flown 82 million passengers with 550 daily flights, and is in a prime position for the future: India is forecast to become the world’s third-largest aviation market by 2020 and the largest by 2030.

IndiGo pulls this off by balancing a cool factor with innovations meant to cut costs while also pleasing customers. It has stepless ramps to cut down boarding times and a pit-stop approach to aircraft cleaning to slash turnaround times. Last year, it brought in pioneering measures such as 48-hour advance check-ins at no extra change, dedicated stair lifts for passengers with special needs, and options for fliers to donate toward reducing the carbon footprint. An on-board Braille guide helps visual-impaired passengers communicate with the crew.

  1. Quick turnarounds: Flight crews rapidly clean after landing; domestic flights can reboard in 20 minutes.
  2. Better entry: Step-less ramps cut down boarding times.
  3. Efficiency controls: Proprietary system updates ground on flight status to ensure that flights run on time.

Illustration: Chris Philpot

Behind the scenes, IndiGo has developed an “aircraft communication addressing and reporting systems”—a digital data link to convey short messages about flight status and other key information between the aircraft and ground stations via satellite. All of that is aimed at achieving the standard most passengers will hold it to: meeting its catchy unofficial tagline, “On time, every time.”

One Cool Thing

This IndiGo commercial hammers (and hammers and hammers) a claim that’s rare among Indian airlines: Its flights actually take off on time:

[Photo: courtesy of IndiGo]FCS