EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Introducing flypop – CEO Navdip Singh Judge & COO Graham Howat

Updated: Aug 18, 2019

The aviation industry is full of airlines. So much so, that carriers like Lufthansa have begun to blame their weakening financial results on ‘overcapacity’ within the market. However, this isn’t limited to full-service, premium carriers, with the low cost market, particularly in Europe almost indefinitely oversaturated. However, a new sector within the budget airline market is emerging; low-cost, long haul travel.

Photo by flypop.

flypop was an idea, originally envisaged more than 5 years ago. However, over the last couple of years, the project has begun to come to life, with CEO (Nino) Navdip Singh Judge and COO Graham Howat at the controls. Based at Stansted, the airline is anticipating a network which allows the Indian diaspora in the United Kingdom and later, around the world, to get back home. AeroNewsX spoke to the CEO and COO to find out more.


The long-haul low cost market is one that has yet to be fully explored. This is exactly the market which flypop plan to pioneer.


“People have tried to do it in the past but have not made it successful because we think they haven’t recognised the market correctly and they haven’t approached it correctly.” – Graham Howat, COO flypop.

Destinations

Initially, flypop is looking to fly to Amritsar and Ahmedabad in India, key Punjabi and Gujarati cities respectively, from its base at London Stansted. With its future fleet of Airbus A330-300s, the carrier hopes to give the Indian diaspora based in the United Kingdom, an opportunity to fly back and forth to their origins without having to stopover and at an affordable price.

Photo by flypop.

The CEO noted that there are around 800,000 Gujarati’s in the UK – all of which don’t have a cheap and comfortable option to return back to India. Likewise for the Punjabi and Sikh community, there are approximately 600,000 who are ‘pushed through the hub [such as Mumbai, Delhi etc.],’ according to the CEO, and have to connect to get to Amritsar.


The carrier hopes to initially launch a total of 6 weekly flights, split equally between the two cities.

Comfort Is Key

The CEO said that flypop have a limit on how long their aircraft will spend in the air. He says, that his Airbus A330s won’t spend longer than 10 hours in the sky, as it’s otherwise uncomfortable for passengers. This comes from experience, when Judge ran a Formula 1 team in Malaysia.


“So I travelled quite a lot on Air Asia X from the UK to Kuala Lumpur and after 9 or 10 hours, it really is too uncomfortable. If you give people extra pitch and width, then of course it works, but that’s not low-cost!” – Navdip Singh Judge, CEO flypop
Flypop CEO, (Nino) Navdip Singh Judge. Photo by flypop.
Judge continued: “We’re going to go out a maximum of 10 [hours], a couple of hours turnaround and back home to our base in Stansted.”

Aircraft

flypop is hoping to launch operations with a leased Airbus A330-300. The CEO mentioned that they are in talks with Airbus to secure the first aircraft, adding that they are the ones who know where all the leased aircraft are and can therefore help flypop secure the plane in time for its launch.


“We intend to operate A330-300s, we think that’s a very appropriate aircraft for us, it’s two engined, it’s got a very very strong track record of reliability and it carries the load that we wish to carry.” – Graham Howat, COO flypop.

Keep in mind, flypop still need to repaint the aircraft to their livery and reconfigure the cabin to their standards which can take some time to do.


“The A330-300 is exactly the right aircraft for us” – Graham Howat, COO flypop.
Flypop COO, Graham Howat. Photo: flypop

flypop has a ‘very modest growth plan’ which involves the incorporation of one additional aircraft every 6 months. When asked, Howat confirmed they would all be used Airbus A330s.


“We’ve got a very modest growth plan. We’re adding an aircraft every six months. So five years, 10 airplanes. May be it will be two or three or four more than that if we get reasons to accelerate. But it won’t be monstrously more than that.” - Graham Howat, COO flypop.

The Launch

The CEO told me that they aim to begin operations in April next year, at the start of the summer season. flypop is still in talks to secure its first aircraft and more importantly it’s Air Operators Certificate which would allow it to begin flights. At the moment, however, flypop is still trying to persuade investors, and once funding closes (hopefully by the end of September according to the COO), the carrier’s project can really begin.


“We’ll start in April if we can. But it’s all a matter of making sure we get our AOC, doing everything right; getting the marketing right…” – Navdip Singh Judge, CEO flypop.

flypop’s ambitions don’t end with long haul, low-cost flights. In fact, the airline is looking to provide a more environmentally-friendly product, with plans to become the first international, carbon-neutral airline. flypop is also looking at supporting the homeless in various ways.


As both the CEO and COO mentioned throughout the interview, you can only begin a successful airline if you have the demand to do so. flypop is looking to serve the Indian diaspora in the UK, choosing Stansted as a hub due to its location near both London and the Midlands.


It will be very interesting to see how flypop expands, and with the CEO and COO’s passion and confidence, we trust the carrier will be a success.

Stay tuned for our YouTube videos from the interview coming soon!

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