Salute to the matriarch- In conversation with Harpreet A De Singh, CEO Alliance Air

How does it feel to be the first woman to head an Indian airliner? How did you plan the flight path of your professional career?

It is a very exciting and challenging opportunity given to me by the Government of India and I am very grateful for that. I don’t have those visions of being a CEO that I’m above and everybody else has to follow me. I am a team person and I believe I’m just a pure soul like anybody else. I am quite a spiritual person and I would like to not lose my focus. I focus on the work, not really on the position. I cannot say I landed exactly where I eventually planned to be. I believed in continuously doing the best in whatever role I was assigned. I started off as a pilot and then I became a trainer and moved up in the training department. I also took up the responsibilities in Operations, Flight Planning and Dispatch, Quality and Environment Management, Customer Service & In-flight Services, worked as a lead auditor with IATA, moved into Flight Safety. I also headed the Emergency response, where I handled two accidents. I conceptualized the ‘Angels of Air India'. In 2015, I was the first lady to serve as Chief of Flight Safety. After serving in that role for 5 years, I moved up as CEO of Alliance Air in November 2020. It has been a journey which has given me a 360 degree exposure to various departments. So I think the journey has been excellent with challenges but not that I planned. I was always open to taking up new opportunities and learning. I believe this is what allowed me to grow.

What was the role that you played at Indian Women Pilots’ Association (IWPA) and how did that shape your career?

I am the president of IWPA for the last many years now. I wouldn’t say that has shaped my career but I have been instrumental in shaping the career of lot of women who are keen to be in aviation. When I joined, I didn’t know much about IWPA. But I did know that IWPA is a beautiful organization which was charitable trust that was started in 1967. All of us together have really contributed to encourage women to take up roles in aviation, especially the challenging role of being a pilot. This has led India to have the highest percentage of women pilots in the world. We are very proud of that and we`re also
very proud of the contribution of IWPA in helping so many women.

There has been a steady resumption of domestic air travel post the lockdown. With the Covid-19 protocols still in place, how are they affecting your operations?

Definitely the lockdown impact has been there. Even financially, there has been a huge adverse impact on all carriers including Alliance Air. We are slowly and steadily limping back. We have already opened up 45 stations which is significant. We are also opening new stations. On 1 st March 2021 a brand new station was opened up in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh. We have inaugurated a station in Bareilly on the 8 th of March. As it coincides with International Women’s Day, we have done the inaugural as an all women flight with only women carrying out all the functions - Pilots, Engineers, Dispatchers, Cabin Crew, Security & Ground Handling. The Honourable Minister of Civil Aviation Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri flagged off the inaugural Delhi-Bareilly flight.

Could you throw some light onto the MoU signed between HAL and Alliance Air during Aero India 2021?

We have always believed in our Honourable Prime Minister’s vision ‘AtmaNirbhar India’ (Atmanirbhar Bharat). When I became CEO of Alliance Air, I was told that Government of India wanted this and no airline was actually stepping forward to take this risky move in some ways to sign up with HAL. We need to have the courage to take a bold decision and we must support the concept of Atmanirbhar India. However I thought about it. Though the Dorniers made by HAL were signed up only for the defence forces for so many years, this is the first time in the history of Indian civil aviation that an Airline operator signed up with a made in India manufacturing company, HAL. We signed the MoU during Aero India on 5 th February 2021 and we are hoping that very soon we should be moving forward and procuring two aircraft from them.

How are you planning to make use of the Dorniers to increase the connectivity?

We plan to initially deploy them in Arunachal Pradesh. Because that is the area which is not well connected. Once we stabilize in that region, we will use the Dorniers in the other sectors.

What are your plans for the growth of Alliance Air in terms of scheduled routes, customer base and financial status?

As I mentioned earlier, post Covid, we have slowly started to rebound. We have opened our 46th station. We are expanding and increasing our operations by adding new sectors and also by increasing the frequency of the flights in the already existing sectors. We are going to continue our expansion. Sindhudurg is on the cards in western part of the country. Once we get Sindhudurg clearance, we will be doing the Mumbai-Sindhudurg flight; also the Dorniers in the North East. We are planning to take one ATR 42 on lease. Within 2-3 months, once the aircraft is available, we will be expanding to Shimla. I believe we definitely have a plan ahead. We look forward not only to the UDAN scheme sectors and the RCS routes, but we are also indulging in pure commercial sectors as well. So, Alliance Air is definitely looking forward to a slow and steady growth.

Any empowering words for the women Aviators on the occasion of International Women`s Day?

First thing, never forget that as a woman, you are the one who is capable of taking on stress. You have experienced child birth. You know that you can do anything with ease. Sometimes I feel women don’t recognize their own strengths. They are already having a lot of courage, a lot of resilience, a lot of strength. There is nothing a woman cannot do. They just need to focus inwards and get that inner strength. Second thing that I would definitely like to share; in any life environment be it work or home, there are three things which are very important. One is of course your IQ, which is Intelligence Quotient in anything that you do. The other is your Emotional Quotient EQ; the women are naturally blessed with it. And the third most important thing which is my personally created one, what I call PSQ. Pure Soul Quotient. Which means anything that you do with purity, with your sincerity, with your full well wishes for everyone, you will always have success in all the ways; tangible and intangible. It keeps you, your people and your organization happy. So my message to the women is focus on your inner strength, your IQ, your EQ and also focus on the Pure Soul Quotient.