IndiGo to develop multiple hubs for non-stop flights to int’l destinations

  • On 25 April, IndiGo placed a firm order of 30 Airbus A350-900 aircraft that will help the low-cost airline offer non-stop flights to Europe, the UK, the US, and Australia from India.

Anu Sharma
First Published30 Apr 2024, 08:12 PM IST
Airbus A321 XLR planes are expected to be used for non-stop, 7-8 hour flights to Europe and the Far East countries.
Airbus A321 XLR planes are expected to be used for non-stop, 7-8 hour flights to Europe and the Far East countries.(Bloomberg)

India's largest domestic airline IndiGo has set a clear target for itself with its first wide-body aircraft order that placed recently. It wants to develop multiple hubs in the country, providing direct connectivity to faraway destinations from different metro cities with Airbus A350 and Airbus A321 XLR (extra long range) aircraft, set to join its fleet 2025 onwards.

The Airbus A321 XLR planes are expected to be used for non-stop, 7-8 hour flights to Europe and the Far East countries.

In a conference call on the induction of wide-body aircraft on Tuesday, IndiGo chief executive officer Pieter Elbers said that the airline sees potential of different strongholds across various parts of the country such as Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru, and given the country's geographical position, it is optimistic of seeing some overlapping as well as unique connections through different metro cities.

Also Read: IndiGo makes long-haul foray, orders 30 wide-body aircraft

A linear decline in market share of Indian carriers in global markets beyond 5-6 hours

"There is a linear decline in market share of Indian carriers in international markets beyond 5-6 hours. Indian carriers are signifiantly under-represented in wide-body, long-haul market. We should be able to compete with global aviation hubs," Elbers said in a conference call with analysts and journalists.

On 25 April, IndiGo placed a firm order of 30 Airbus A350-900 aircraft that will help the low-cost airline offer non-stop flights to Europe, the UK, the US, and Australia from India. While the airline and the aircraft manufacturer did not share the cost of the acquisition, it is estimated to cost IndiGo over $9 billion, based on 2018 list prices. The European aircraft manufacturer has stopped publishing list prices of aircraft since 2019.

Also Read: Archer to join IndiGo, ride-hailing apps to expand reach of electric air taxis

In addition to the firm or confirmed order of 30 A350-900 order, IndiGo has also secured purchase rights for an additional 70 Airbus A350 family aircraft. Currently, the airline operates low-frill flights with all-economy seats through a fleet of Airbus 320 aircraft, which can seat between 180 and 220 passengers. With this order, IndiGo will join the wide-body segment, which so far has only Air India and Vistara - both Tata Group companies.

The airline reiterated that the decision to order 30 Airbus A350-900 aircraft was a conscious one after extensive evaluation, and it is also in line with the government's ambition of creating global aviation hubs in the country.

"India is expected to become the world's third-largest economy by 2027, the aspirations of Indian consumers are growing to travel, not only in the region but even further, and the growth of IndiGo as an airline has led to this deliberate decision," Elbers said.

IndiGo aims to deploy 30% of seat capacity on international routes, from 27% currently. This is expected to grow further with the induction of A321XLR aircraft from 2025 and A350 aircraft from 2027. Currently, IndiGo is the largest domestic and second-largest international airline after Air India group, and operates around 2,000 flights a day.

"Today we operate around 350 aircraft, by 2030, we will be operating 550-600 aircraft...between the A350 and A320 family, there will be similarities in a lot of elements, we will have synergy in cockpit crew, methodologies etc," Elbers said.

IndiGo did not disclose whether it will operate a low-cost wide-body product or will add some full-service facilities, but said that it will maintain cost-leadership in its wide-body product as well.

"For way too long, Indian customers had difficulty reaching their destinations and with our new product, we feel that they will have the opportunity to fly direct," Elbers said.

Airbus A350-900 is a wide-body, long-range twin-engine aircraft, which was introduced in commercial service by Qatar Airways in 2015. The aircraft can carry 300-350 passengers over a 15,000-kilometre or a 16-17 hour flying range on a non-stop flight and will be powered by Rolls-Royce's Trent XWB engines.

As per aviation research firm CAPA India, India has one of the smallest wide-body fleet globally. Data showed that as of 2022, India had around 49 wide-body aircraft, compared to over 550 in the the US, 460 in China, 126 in France, and 101 in Germany.

With a fleet of over 350 aircraft, IndiGo currently provides connectivity to more than 85 domestic and around 30 international destinations. The airline has nearly 970 narrow-body aircraft from the Airbus A320 family and 30 wide-body A350 aircraft in the pipeline.

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First Published:30 Apr 2024, 08:12 PM IST
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