IndiGo, India’s biggest airline by marketshare and fleet, has been facing a question of sorts that we have discussed in the past. IndiGo wants to head to London, becoming a long-haul player of note, but it knows its current model of cutting and pasting the domestic passenger experience on international flights does not work for flights longer than 4-5 hours, as the Istanbul experience shows. In the meanwhile, they’ve been filing and receiving slots in London, but they haven’t made a move forward on the plan, and Jazeera Airways of Kuwait has stolen a march over them, offering sort of one of the first low-cost experience between India and London on a one-stop flight.
Yesterday, at the IndiGo annual general meeting, for the first time, Ronojoy Datta, the CEO of the airline, made a public comment about the state of affairs at IndiGo, with respect to heading into the true long haul space. The good news is, you won’t have to go there in a single aisle aircraft.
Here is what The Hindu says, he said at the AGM,
We are investigating it thoroughly. We meet every Tuesday to talk about the widebody. It is not an easy proposition. You do need a business class to make the widebody work. We cannot copy anyone because no one has succeeded in terms of widebody low cost,” Mr. Dutta said. The airline is also examining inducting the A321 XLR (extra long range) aircraft. The CEO said that the shortcoming with the XLR was that it cannot reach London, a destination the airline plans to connect in future. “The XLR is a great aeroplane, but it cannot reach London. With the current range, we cannot reach Seoul. With the XLR we can reach Seoul.”
This is different than what Airbus said, about the fact that the XLR works from Delhi to London. But if IndiGo is looking at a widebody aircraft for this sector, then I am not going to complain at all. And full marks to them for thinking beyond their current business model. I know aviation people are already complaining or wondering about how IndiGo’s fleet is getting complex by the day, but at some point in time, the airline will need to make this move because they would have saturated all the options to fly locally, and it is a good thing they are getting that thought process up and running right now.
But the news from IndiGo does not stop there. IndiGo plans to grow 30% year on year, and half of that capacity will go to domestic expansion and half on to international expansion. Which means you will see a lot more flights from IndiGo in the coming years to connect within Asia.
Bottomline is, if you plan to fly IndiGo to UK sometime in the future, expect a bigger aircraft or do not expect them to fly there at all. It is a problem they are trying to solve right now, and perhaps will at some point in time. Also, perhaps time to expect an order of the XLR sometime soon?
What do you think is the timeline IndiGo has set itself to fly to London? Or will it continue to be just an aspiration?