India’s Domestic Carriers Reach Abroad for Growth

 - August 8, 2019, 1:20 PM
Vistara became the latest Indian carrier to fly to Singapore from Mumbai and Dehli on August 6. (Photo: Vistara)

Slots made available at congested international airports in Mumbai and Delhi by the shutdown of Jet Airways have opened opportunities for India’s domestic carriers to increase their short- to medium-haul international routes. Tata Sons/Singapore Airlines-owned Vistara, budget carrier SpiceJet, and IndiGo all have begun to aggressively enter overseas markets with Boeing and Airbus narrowbodies.

“There is an imbalance in networks of domestic versus international destinations for carriers that have until now served the domestic market,” Center for Aviation (CAPA) India and Middle East CEO Kapil Kaul told AIN. “Opportunities for international aviation from India are massive—from business travel, visiting friends and relatives, and tourism both inbound and outbound.”

IndiGo, for one, recently announced that from next year it will fly 50 percent of its capacity to international destinations. “We are very, very pleased with what's happening with international,” said IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta. “The unit revenue is strong. The profitability is strong.”

Starting August 25, IndiGo will add its fourth daily direct flight on the Mumbai-Dubai sector. “The A320neo family is bringing in the growth of medium and long haul...without incorporating the cost of widebodies,” commented Kaul.

In July, India’s aviation authority distributed Jet Airways’ bilateral rights, of which Air India received the largest share. IndiGo gained 84 flights a week, SpiceJet 77, GoAir 35, and Vistara 28. On August 6, Vistara became the latest Indian carrier to start flights to Singapore from Delhi and Mumbai. It plans next to serve Dubai and Bangkok this month.  

“Codeshares and signing up to a general distribution system for airline bookings is essential for airlines flying abroad,” said Kaul. Singapore Airlines (SIA) and regional subsidiary SilkAir have already signed an agreement with Vistara to expand codeshares to 40 international routes in phases.  “This strategic partnership means a more seamless flying experience for travelers from India to destinations across Asia, Oceania, and the U.S.,” said Vistara’s chief strategy officer, Vinod Kannan.

IndiGo chief commercial officer William Boulter spoke with AIN about the benefits of his airline’s recent efforts toward international collaboration. “We have had a fine start to our cooperation with Turkish Airlines and will be adding points to the 12 in Europe we currently sell on the IndiGo code beyond Istanbul,” he said. He called IndiGo an “attractive airline to foreign partners,” and said it would add frequencies to current routes such as to Dubai.

Kaul cautioned about airlines pumping too much capacity into Dubai, however. “The Middle East story is changing,” he said, referring to geopolitical issues brewing there.