IndiGo plans to launch flights to China this year

IndiGo took delivery of their first A321neo, VT-IUA back in December 2018. I had the pleasure to travel on it (twice!) last week. It is a silent aircraft. IndiGo has another 149 A321neos on order. Currently, four of these A321neos, VT-IUB/C/D/E are at various stages of production and testing and will be delivered soon.

IndiGo is launching Istanbul as their first international A321neo destination in March 2019. For quite some time now, there have been discussions that IndiGo will start flights to China. It has been mentioned in post-earnings conference calls and the recently concluded CAPA Indian Aviation Summit in New Delhi which Ajay attended.

Now, it looks like IndiGo is getting more serious to start flights to China by the year-end. Guangzhou is rumored to be the first destination in China. Kunming, Chengdu, and Shanghai are also on the cards. SpiceJet used to operate Delhi – Guangzhou back in the day. Currently, only Air India operates flights to China; 5x weekly Delhi-Shanghai on a Boeing 787-8.

According to IndiGo’s CCO Willy Boutler at the CAPA summit, talking to Ajay,

A big opportunity that India is missing. We are determined to operate to China. China to us is a big market and it is perfect in terms of culture fit and tourism. The airline plans to operate 14 flights between India and China.

While no routes have been confirmed, Delhi will be the origin since it is IndiGo’s central hub. On the other hand, Bengaluru also provides an attractive opportunity due to large Chinese investments. Delhi already has enough connectivity to China, while Bengaluru has no non-stop flights to China yet.

IndiGo is going against the big guns in this market. Chinese carriers have maxed out their share of bilaterals which is at 42 flights per week. Chinese carriers are known for their low fares, and sometimes other Asian carriers also have cheap tickets.

Fares on the India-China market are quite cheap, whether non-stop or one-stop. China Southern has INR 24k roundtrip fares on their nonstop Delhi-Guangzhou route.

IndiGo China

China Southern Delhi-Guangzhou

China Southern has INR 31.5k roundtrip fares on Delhi-Chengdu route, and Thai has INR 35k one-stop roundtrip fares.

IndiGo China

Delhi-Chengdu Roundtrip Fares

Singapore Airlines is offering cheap INR 22k roundtrip fares on Delhi-Shanghai route. One can fly non-stop for INR 35k on Delhi-Shanghai on Air India. China Southern has INR 31.5k roundtrip fares on Delhi-Shanghai route.

IndiGo China

Delhi-Shanghai Roundtrip Fares

All these fares are offered by full-service carriers and on widebody aircraft which translates to comfort+hot meals. IndiGo’s A321neo, like their A320neos, have slimline seats and do not have ovens in galleys to save on weight and space. So IndiGo will provide cold sandwiches and ready-to-eat food on all International flights operated by the new A321neos as well.

IndiGo A321neo VT-IUA

No ovens!! VT-IUA Front Galley

While the slimline seats are bearable for a couple of hours, it may be an issue for a 6+ hour flight. But then again you know what you are paying for. Oh and IndiGo don’t forget to register your aircraft with Chinese authorities before you operate your flights.

Bottomline

IndiGo is adding 14x weekly flights on India – China flights in 2019. It will be operated by 222 seat A321neos. Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shanghai and Kunming are rumored destinations. SpiceJet has also hinted to possibly re-start China operations with the newly delivered Boeing 737Max.

Which routes do you think IndiGo will operate to China?

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