Thursday, October 21, 2021

Gearing up for Tata-AI: IndiGo opts for better seats & more legroom on some aircraft; ovens for hot food now in sight

Kushinagar: You may soon get “real” hot food — instead of keeping noodles or upma in hot water for 5 minutes — on IndiGo’s longer flights. Gearing up for competition from the Tata-Air India combine, the low-cost airline has opted for more comfortable seats with better legroom on some of its single-aisle Airbus A320 neo family of planes that will be used for up to 7-hour-long flights.

“We have decided on new seats on some of our planes with more cushioning and these planes will have more legroom for passengers. These single aisles will be used for up to 7-hour international flights. We are also looking at having ovens in these planes. Actually, we had never stopped looking at ovens,” IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta told TOI Wednesday.

IndiGo, which flies almost six in every 10 domestic passengers, is as of now not exploring the option of wide-body aircraft for international sectors. Asked if IndiGo will now look at Qatar Airways’ long-standing offer for picking up a stake in it to take on the combined Tata Group airlines which will soon include AI and AI Express, Dutta said that is a call to be taken by the promoters. “We have codeshares with Qatar and some other airlines.”

In the domestic space, IndiGo — with a 57% market share — has so far not faced any real competition from other airlines. In pre-pandemic times, it had become the single largest airline for international carriage also due to its large number of flights to nearby countries, especially the Gulf.

But things could change now if the Tata Group is able to manage well the merger of Air India, AI Express, AirAsia India and possibly Vistara at a later stage. While they are yet to spell out their plans, it is believed Tatas will have a low-cost arm by merging AI Express and AirAsia India and a full-service AI that could be joined by Vistara later on. Barring a few metros and a couple of international sectors like Delhi/Mumbai-Dubai/Doha routes, most domestic and nearby foreign routes could be served by the Tata low-cost airlines. Medium (Mumbai-Frankfurt) to ultra-long hauls (like Delhi-San Francisco) are likely to be served by the full-service airline.

21/10/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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