Tuesday, October 27, 2020

IndiGo takes fresh stab at London Heathrow, but faces poor overseas record and more competition

 IndiGo, India’s largest airline by fleet and domestic market share, has secured slots at London Heathrow. The airline intends to operate daily services to London Heathrow from Mumbai and New Delhi effective mid-January, going by the details released by ACL, the slot co-ordinator of London Heathrow and many other airports such as Manchester, Birmingham and Dubai.

IndiGo has long coveted slots at London Heathrow—one of the world’s most sought after and busiest airports—and has finally succeeded. The airline had obtained slots at London Gatwick but never started operations. IndiGo has been candid about operations to London Heathrow; both its CEO and CCO have spoken at lenghth about its ambitions and challenges in the past.

In the initial co-ordination exercise concerning slot allocation, neither IndiGo nor Spicejet had requested for slots at London Heathrow. But things have turned topsy-turvy for aviation since March with the COVID-19 pandemic almost grounding the entire passenger traffic. Airlines were mostly grounded and a few focused primarily on cargo to stay aloft.

IndiGo has made no secret about its ambitions in the United Kingdom market. For the last five seasons, the airline has been filing for slots and routes across the UK.

This includes request for slots at Birmingham for flights from Amritsar and to London Stansted from Delhi and Bengaluru. The airline had also obtained slots at London Gatwick for flights from New Delhi.

While earlier the airline had requested for slots for its A321neo aircraft with 222 seats, last winter it requested for a 341 seat A330-300 for flights to Manchester from Mumbai and New Delhi.

Is IndiGo feeling left out? The Tata-SIA joint venture Vistara launched its first widebody international flights to London Heathrow last month. Vistara, a full-service airline, operates a three class B787-9 on the route. IndiGo’s low-cost competitor Spicejet has also announced launch of services to London Heathrow and will operate from Delhi and Mumbai. SpiceJet is holding seven departure slots but will start with thrice a week service, with two services to Delhi and one to Mumbai. Government-owned  Air India has meanwhile raised its London game.

27/10/20 Ameya Joshi/Moneycontrol

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