Captain Simran Singh Tiwana, CEO, Star Air talks to Jayant Baranwal, Editor-in-Chief, SP’s AirBuz about the journey of the airline with their future plans and his outlook on travel in India
Jayant Baranwal (Baranwal): Congratulations on having been awarded as Best Domestic Airline (RCS) during Wings India held in Hyderabad, last month! Can we request you to take us through your journey from the date of inception till now?
Captain Simran Singh Tiwana (Tiwana): We started aviation as a business in 2014 with a fleet of Airbus Helicopters and in 2017 laid the idea of Star Air for connecting Real India. It was a great experience putting the core team together in a co-working space in Bengaluru. We started operations in January 2019 with one aircraft and four days of operations in a week. Continued our growth through the pandemic to reach 18 airports, five aircraft, and about 20 flights a day today.
Baranwal: What has been the idea behind the name of your airline: “Star Air” – sounds to be a great selection of interesting expressions?
Tiwana: I think we all love a star-lit sky. Our parent group has been building the Star Brand over the years and we have taken it to the sky.
Baranwal: How do you find the overall business moving forward?
Tiwana: As the aviation industry is recovering from the effects of the pandemic, we are also witnessing a positive trend in the overall business. We are working towards expanding our network. India has a great opportunity for regional connectivity and our business will remain focused on the same.
Baranwal: How did COVID-19 treat you and your flying schedules starting from 2020 April?
Tiwana: In April 2020, we resumed our operations with restricted capacity but we managed to remove the restrictions and operate at full capacity within a few months. In fact, we commenced routes to new stations in late 2020.
Baranwal: We presume your airline is full-frill. What all are you offering to your loyal passengers?
Tiwana: We are following an LCC model. We want our passengers to have a personalised flying experience. We are offering Star Regular which is a no-frill product and Star Comfort includes a free meal, free seat selection, and priority baggage. A full-fledged loyalty programme is in the pipeline.
Baranwal: What’s the occupancy per cent in your flights being operated as of today?
Tiwana: Currently, we are witnessing an occupancy rate of over 80 per cent on our flights.
Baranwal: Where do you get your MRO requirements met - domestically or with overseas-based companies?
Tiwana: We have set up our own MRO in Bengaluru. Our engineers have successfully completed multiple major checks on EMB145 in-house.
Baranwal: What’s your experience with Embraer jets?
Tiwana: The Embraer Jets are reliable and comfortable. EMB145 has a unique 1+2 seat configuration and our jets have a 31” seat pitch, which gives a distinctive flying experience. We are the only airline that is offering such a product in India.
“We are working towards expanding our network. India has a great opportunity for regional connectivity and our business will remain focused on the same”
Baranwal: What’s the current size of your fleet?
Tiwana: We are operating five ERJ145 jets currently.
Baranwal: Would you like to share your expansion plans?
Tiwana: We are inducting more aircraft and working towards it.
Baranwal: How do you find the commercial aviation industry under the current regime being led by Jyotiraditya M. Scindia, Union Minister of Civil Aviation, also in terms of the regulations?
Tiwana: I feel currently we have one of the most dynamic ministers and he is supported by a great team. We have seen the change and experienced a positive push for various reforms in aviation.
Baranwal: Do you have any concerns? If so, would you like to share?
Tiwana: Taxation on Indian Aviation is one of the highest in the world. All airlines and passengers pay the price of it. I think getting ATF under GST can be a great solution, to begin with.
Baranwal: Should you have some pleasant experiences, please do share them with us.
Tiwana: A lot of them actually, but I would just say the Civil Aviation Ministry is in the right hands and poised for phenomenal growth.
Baranwal: Would you like to comment on evolving prices of ATF? Any suggestions?
Tiwana: ATF prices are shooting up in such a way that airlines cannot absorb the hike by offering the same fares to the passengers. We are forced to transfer a share of the increment to passengers and hope the prices to normalise.
Baranwal: What are your long-term goals and objectives?
Tiwana: We aspire to be the best regional airline in the country by connecting more unconnected cities. Our primary objective is to continue to be the airline that cares.