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The Secret Behind Indigo’s Profitability

Have you ever wondered how India’s largest airline operator IndiGo operated by Interglobe Aviation flies high despite the turbulent nature of the airline industry? Well, the answer is the business model on which the airline operates. The business model, known as the Sale and Leaseback Model, has been one of the consistent reasons for the carrier’s profits year by year.

The Secret Behind Indigo's Profitability - Sale and Leaseback Model

What’s this business model?

Simply stated, the Sale and Leaseback model is a transaction wherein a person can lease (rent) the asset to himself after selling it. In other words, an asset that was earlier owned by the seller is sold to someone else after which it is leased back to the first owner for the long term. One who grants the use of the asset to the other party is known as the lessor, while one who uses the asset in return for periodic payments is known as the lessee. This has precisely been the business strategy of the airline ever since it commenced its operations.


How does this model work?

  • The airline operator signs an aircraft purchase agreement say for ten aircraft for $40 million.
  • After the delivery of the aircraft is undertaken, the airline will undertake to sell the plane to the leasing companies. For instance, the aircraft is sold at $45 million. In that scenario, the airline makes a profit of $5 million after which it asks the new owner to lease back the same aircraft.
  • The lease is for 5 to 8 years after which the aircraft is transferred to the leasing companies.
The Secret Behind Indigo's Profitability

Advantages of the Lease Back transaction

  1. Benefits of an existing brand name to the lessor
    The lessee (IndiGo Airlines) pays the lessor from the income earned by the airlines using the aircraft. The leasing company also agrees to such an arrangement because it provides an asset and an established customer base without having to buy a brand-new plane.
  2. Cash Flow Generation
    The Lessee when it sells the aircraft generates cash which could be used to relieve the balance sheet of the company from debt. Also, when the company sells the plane to a lessor/lender, obviously the original aircraft owner (IndiGo airlines) will be able to earn some cash which could be reinvested elsewhere.
  3. Reduction in Tax Liability
    Under the sale and leaseback model, the company does not have to pay any taxes on the appreciation of the asset. Further, the lease paid on the asset is recorded in the profit and loss account, which reduces the net profit, which will, in turn, reduce the tax liability.
  4. Safety from Maintenance Repairs
     In a Lease Back agreement, it is the responsibility of the lessor to bear the maintenance repairs. This, as a result, significantly reduces the cost of the airlines.
Youtube : Dhyanesh mankar

Why not see a short clip of Indigo’s first Airbus 320 departure from Begumpet Airport – Hyderabad? Indigo Airlines’ & Asia’s first Airbus A320neo (VT-ITC) takes off at Begumpet Airport (VOHY), also known as the old Hyderabad airport for the very first time on the first day of India Aviation 2016 event.

There are a lot of ‘firsts’ associated with this aircraft

# Indigo Airlines’ first A320neo aircraft –

# Asia’s first A320neo aircraft

# World’s first A320neo female pilot, Capt. Karuna Singh operated this aircraft to/from the event at BPM. On 11th March 2016, Indigo received its first-ever Airbus A320neo.


The Sale and Leaseback model is called as the golden goose for IndiGo Airlines. Apart from excellent services, this model is the prime reason behind IndiGo’s success story. IndiGo Airlines continues to perform well, reporting net profits worth Rs 1200 crore in the first quarter of FY 2020, despite subdued demand. However, we believe that this model is not purely free from disadvantages.

This is because, in the wake of uncertain circumstances, such as a surge in the price of aviation turbine fuel or merely a weakening demand, lease payments certainly increase the pressure and become a burden on the company

It is therefore important for every company in the aviation industry to avoid being complacent and take lessons from the crash of Jet Airways and create a business model that is both dynamic and can withstand any misfortune. 

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