Low-cost carriers bank on thrift, more flights

Low-cost carriers bank on thrift, more flights
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First Published: Wed, Mar 18 2009. 05 30 AM IST

Updated: Thu, Mar 19 2009. 12 38 PM IST
New Delhi: The country’s low-cost airlines are flying into the upcoming summer season with a new confidence.
With new planes being added to their fleets, these airlines plan to increase the number of daily flights by up to 7% in their new summer schedule starting end-March. The reason: passengers are expected to turn to thrifty travel options in a slowing economy.
Low-cost carriers, who are estimated to fly one of the every two passengers in the country, will likely run into competition from full-service rivals. They, too, are applying to increase the number of flights in the summer schedule, by bringing back grounded aircraft and utilizing planes in their fleets better, if passenger demand revives in the election season.
Flight permissions are granted in two schedules by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the country’s aviation regulator. The summer schedule begins on the last Sunday of March and runs until the last Saturday of October, while the winter schedule stretches from the last Sunday of October to the last Saturday of March.
The bullishness in the summer plans of the low-cost carriers contrasts with 2008’s summer season, when airlines in the country had pulled back several flights: from 10,922 domestic departures a week approved that March to 8,778 by July, a contraction of about 20%. Most of the flights pulled back then were by low-cost airlines.
Taking wing: Low-cost carriers, such as SpiceJet, which are estimated to fly one of the every two passengers in the country, are turning bullish on their new summer schedule that is slated to start by end-March. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Low-cost carrier SpiceJet Ltd, which has 115 daily flights currently, plans to add four flights by March-end and additional three-four flights by mid-April, using its fleet of 19 Airbus SAS-made A320 aircraft. Those on the anvil include daily Hyderabad-Ahmedabad, Hyderabad-Bangalore and Ahmedabad-Bangalore return flights and a new evening flight between Ahmedabad-Mumbai, SpiceJet’s chief commercial officer Samyukth Sridharan said.
At InterGlobe Aviation Pvt. Ltd-run IndiGo, which took delivery of its 19th aircraft this month, plans are afoot to add six new flights—taking the total daily flights from 119 to 125—starting 29 March. These include flights connecting Ahmedabad and Bangalore, Ahmedabad and New Delhi,  Bangalore and New Delhi, and Bangalore and Kolkata, according to the company’s website. The airline may increase its flights as more aircraft are expected to join its fleet this year.
Low-cost airlines, including SpiceJet, IndiGo, Jet Airways Ltd’s JetLite and GoAirlines (India) Pvt. Ltd-run GoAir, now control 35.6% (excluding Kingfisher Airlines Ltd’s Kingfisher Red) of the market by the number of passengers flown, according to February data released by DGCA. Air Deccan, the brand that was replaced with Kingfisher Red, reported a 13.3% market share independently in November, the last month for which data was available.
Jet Airways executive director Saroj K. Dutta said the airline will not make any major changes to its domestic schedules, but minor “substituting” of some flights and increasing by a handful. An airline spokesperson explained this as plans to increase, on an average, flights from 480 to 498 daily, including an international flight between Mumbai and Kuwait and a domestic flight between Mumbai and Kozhikode, in the summer schedule.
A Kingfisher Airlines executive, who did not want to be identified, said his airline expects to increase its current 408 flights a day and add a few new sectors gradually. Details were not available. National Aviation Co. of India Ltd, which operates Air India, and has around 280 daily domestic flights currently, last month said in a presentation to the civil aviation ministry that its number of flights is likely to remain unchanged, except a New Delhi-Kochi-Thiruvananthapuram flight. On Tuesday, the Air India spokesperson could not be reached for comments.
Consultancy firm Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, in an early March report, had said that increasingly, the full-service carrier (FSC) model is not relevant beyond India’s six big cities. “Further capacity reduction is required in the FSC space, and immediately,” it pointed out.
“LCCs (low-cost carriers) need to hold the current levels of capacity and further increase utilization; also, align as much as possible to avoid network duplication,” the report added.
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First Published: Wed, Mar 18 2009. 05 30 AM IST