Six female IndiGo crew members stand together during the Girl Power event.

Indian low-cost carrier IndiGo celebrates Girl Power for IWD 2024


There is a festive feeling in the air at the Guru Dronacharya metro station near IndiGo’s head office in Gurugram on the outskirts of Delhi. Near the metro’s exit, the interior and exterior walls display black and white photographs and painted murals of uniformed IndiGo cockpit and cabin crew members.

The message is clear: Girl Power is thriving at budget airline IndiGo.

IndiGo CEO Pieter Elbers, the former chief of KLM, is a seasoned airline business leader. He is leading IndiGo’s celebration of its female employees for International Women’s Day on 8 March.

Three long black and white images of IndiGo female crew members are affixed to metro pillars as part of the carrier's Girl Power campaign.Joining other senior IndiGo executives in wearing a ‘Girl Power’ button on his lapel, Elbers is quite rightfully proud of IndiGo’s strong gender diversity statistics, including among its pilot ranks. He told Runway Girl Network:

Against the 5% (global) average of women pilots, we have 15%, the highest in the world. India is three times higher than the world average.

He attributes this result to India’s young ambitious women, who are looking to succeed and are backed by accessible training and facilities.

“India has many female fighters in the Air Force, some of whom have shifted to our airline,” he notes. Some 44% of IndiGo’s office employees are women.

“Women are not invisible at IndiGo,” Elbers declares.

Pieter Elbers CEO IndiGo at the Girl Power Event

IndiGo CEO Pieter Elbers proudly wears a ‘Girl Power’ button . Image: Neelam Mathews

All photographs flanking the metro walls carry a crisp message. My favorite theme is ‘escaping patriarchy’. While this campaign is a tad offbeat, even those with inherent biases may recognize it’s time to wake up from their Rip Van Winkle slumber.

IndiGo Girl Power black and white photos with crew members standing around it.The 165-year old Indian Railways has one of the world’s largest networks spanning 67,000 km, and 23 million passengers daily. The newer rapid transit system (known as the ‘Metro’) is operational in 16 cities covering 895 km (556 mi) with Delhi Metro being the largest and growing. According to Elbers, one million people use this metro annually and countless cars pass under it daily. “Only 7% travel by air. The potential is enormous, and this will rise,” Elbers predicts.

As such, IndiGo’s tribute to its female employees could also be seen as strategic marketing, as its shows that the airline celebrates diversity. This may in turn attract new airline passengers.

Large mural by Anpu Varkey for the Indigo Girl Power CampaignAppropriately, IndiGo chose a New Delhi-based female street artist, Anpu Varkey, to paint the murals. For 45 days, she had no qualms about balancing from cranes aided by her helpers — mostly pilots and cabin crew members — to paint the roughly 25,000sq ft of walls.

She says she “became part of the landscape of the station” as vendors offered her free snacks and tea during the cold winter days. “The experience added a huge emotional value,” she confides.

One of Varkey’s young helpers said she felt like being “on cloud nine” while painting the walls. Another described the experience to RGN as “extraordinary”.

Elbers admits he initially felt that Varkey had some far reaching ideas. “[But] what she has made today reflects what we want to be at IndiGo and what IndiGo Girl Power stands for.”

Anpu Varkey mural for the IndiGo Girl Power CampaignA pilot named Priyanka, who comes from a background where girls get married at 18 years of age, tells RGN candidly that gender bias is not yet passé.

“We are getting there,” she says. “It is platforms (no pun intended) like these that create awareness for aspiring young women from conventional families.”

Priyanka speaks on her travails to convince her parents to let her become a pilot

Priyanka spoke about her travails to convince her parents to let her become a pilot. Image: Neelam Mathews

A young female IndiGo technician is convinced that the future of women in Indian aviation is bright. “I love getting my hands dirty and greasy. You ask me to do any work whether on an engine, landing gears or changing tires, I can do it. I love my work,” she notes.


Few women join engineering, says the IndiGo technician, because of “mindsets, hectic work, late hours, and unwillingness to dirty their hands”. But she’s confident that “things will change”.

“My talent speaks for itself,” she says when asked about those who remain skeptical about women’s abilities.

Headquartered in Gurgaon, Haryana, Indigo has pursued a low-cost model and is considered the largest airline in India by passengers carried and fleet size.

It operates a robust fleet of Airbus A320ceo, A320neo, and A321neo twinjets. Last year it placed a massive order for Airbus narrowbodies, setting the record for the biggest single purchase agreement in the history of commercial aviation. It also flies ATR 72 turboprops, and clearly aims to fly high with a gender diverse workforce.

Young technician with single stripes on her love for grease.

A young technician talks about her love for grease. Image: Neelam Mathews

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All images credited to Neelam Mathews