Indigo Airlines founder and co-owner Rahul Bhatia captured many of the headlines at the 2005 Paris Air Show, when he placed a surprise order for 100 Airbus A320s, without even attending. This year Bhatia attended the show but did not create nearly as much attention.
I chased down Bhatia at the chalet of business aircraft manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft. He was at the chalet to sign a contract making Bhatia’s other business, InterGlobe, the Indian sales agent and service centre for Hawker Beechcraft. The signing ceremony, which Indian civil aviation minister Praful Patel also participated in, only attracted a handful of journalists and photographers.
So I asked Bhatia why he decided to come to the Paris Air Show this year to sign a deal with Hawker Pacific when two years ago he did not show up to sign a much bigger contract with Airbus? “I have a genetic disorder,” he joked.
The truth is Bhatia is not a high-profile kind of guy. He rarely makes public appearances and leaves the day-to-day running of Indigo to its chief executive, Bruce Ashby. He says while Indigo’s order for 200 aircraft was announced at Paris, the deal was actually signed before the 2005 air show and there was no need for him to attend.
In the months following the order, many doubted Indigo would take all 100 aircraft on order and some doubted the low-cost carrier would ever launch at all. But Bhatia responds that Indigo has now taken delivery of the first 10 A320s from the order and if anything is interested in accelerating the remaining 90 aircraft, which are now scheduled to be delivered at roughly five-week intervals over the next several years.
“We’re bringing in airplanes bang on target. In fact we’d like to accelerate them and bring them in even faster,” Bhatia says.
Bhatia co-owns Indigo with former US Airways chief executive Rakesh Gangwal. Bhatia spends most of his time managing his other businesses, including airline IT and consulting business InterGlobe Enterprises. The deal with Hawker Beechcaft is with new InterGlobe Enterprises subsidiary InterGlobe General Aviation.