Hmmm: Indian Low Cost Airline SpiceJet Plans To Fly To The United States

Filed Under: Other Airlines

This sure is an interesting revelation, though I have a lot of questions…

SpiceJet plans to fly to the US

SpiceJet is an Indian low cost carrier that launched in 2005, and that currently operates a fleet of over 100 planes. Up until now the airline has primarily operated short haul flights, though it sounds like the airline is thinking globally.

It’s being reported that SpiceJet has today informed the Bombay Stock Exchange of its intent to start service to the United States. The airline has been designated an “Indian scheduled carrier” with regulators for operations between India and the United States.

The airline allegedly made this request at the beginning of the year, and the approval just came through. Given what has happened in the past few months, I think it’s safe to say that the airline may already be reconsidering those plans.

This is only the first step in the airline launching flights to the US, though. SpiceJet will still have to seek permission from the US Federal Aviation Administration for these flights to actually be allowed.

SpiceJet would be the first low cost carrier to offer flights between India and the US:

  • Currently the only Indian airline flying to the US is Air India
  • Jet Airways used to fly to the US (with a stop in Europe), but the airline liquidated last year

Air India’s 777 first class

The major catch with SpiceJet’s announcement

There are two major red flags with SpiceJet’s plans to fly to the US.

The first issue is that SpiceJet doesn’t actually have a plane capable of flying nonstop to the US. SpiceJet’s biggest plane is the Boeing 737, which isn’t nearly long range enough to operate these flights.

The airline doesn’t even have any other wide body aircraft on order. In fairness, I imagine there will soon be plenty of used aircraft available, given that airlines around the world are retiring planes because of the current pandemic (look at Delta, for example, which is retiring its entire 777 fleet).

But that also brings us to the second question, which is how exactly the economics of this service would make any sense? Ultra long haul routes are notoriously difficult to make money on, and that’s even more true when you consider:

  • SpiceJet is a low cost carrier, meaning the airline isn’t going after business travelers, which are typically key to making these routes work
  • While partnerships could be established, SpiceJet doesn’t have any existing ones that could provide feed to its flights in the US
  • The US to India market is already highly competitive among Gulf airlines, offering low fares and superior service, so SpiceJet may have a hard time

Mainly people prefer to fly Gulf carriers between the US and India

Bottom line

SpiceJet has allegedly received approval from Indian regulators to operate flights to the US. If the airline were serious about starting this service, it would still need to get permission from the US FAA, not to mention acquire planes capable of operating the routes.

That doesn’t even get into the highly questionable economics of service like this.

I see multiple Indian media outlets referencing that SpiceJet has become the first budget Indian airline to fly to the US, though that seems to be a ways off from becoming a reality…

If a second Indian carrier were to start flying to the US, you’d think Vistara would be much more likely, given that the airline now has 787s.

What do you make of SpiceJet’s US service aspirations?

  1. “SpiceJet is a low cost carrier, meaning the airline isn’t going after business travelers”

    Norwegian is a low-cost carrier too, but still used by many business travelers to travel between the US and Europe. Not all companies let their employees fly business class, and I think these days many companies don’t want to spend 1K – 2K$ on Economy fares for travel across continents.

  2. The better question is: if Singapore Airlines call their flight attendants “Singapore Girls”, does that mean SpiceJet flight attendants are “Spice Girls”?

  3. I read somewhere that they’ll be leading A330-300s from Oman Air, with a stop in Ras-AlKhaimah (remember when SpiceJet was trying to launch an UAE-based airline back in 2019), this could potentially complement and give them a head-start. But, SpiceJet being a LCC, doesn’t really have a J-Class cabin and is known for its really cramped seating. So, it’s atleast interesting to see how they’ll move forward with the Premium Cabin. they could either introduce it as SpiceMax (their Premium Economy service) or choose to introduce a Proper J-Class service. Anyways, moving forward, QR’s continued operations helped them gain a strong foothold in the market, and the ME3 could easily throw it off the market.

    P.S – I really can’t imagine their routing and their operating frequencies. Although I would safely bet on a Mumbai-New York route.

  4. It signals that the ME3’s business case is sunsetting as we head toward a future of de facto engagement bubbles (trade, transit, capital flows, etc.) and a greater focus on point-to-point service.

    My guess is that the Indian government is interested in advancing several airlines as “national champions” in a manner similar to China’s ‘Big 3.’ I also think Vistara will step up to round out the makings of a national champion.

  5. From hotspot to hotspot, in minimum comfort. Only thing included is Covid, everything else is extra.

  6. Perhaps a return to old routings so primarily not really intended for India US. Example would be India – UAE- London (Stansted or Gatwick) – New York? So LCC as traffic between these points is high for cost sensitive customers?

  7. @Ryan – I have been a road warrior for decades and I know of no major businesses that would ever put their people on Norwegian or any other long haul LCCs. Their high cancellation rate and incessant delays, along with inconvenient departure times makes them a very poor option for anyone other than leisure travelers. And even for leisure, most of us value our time more than to deal with all the Norwegian hassles, not just the delays and cancellations.

  8. Hah! Now cheat international passengers after cheating domestic ones!!! One of the worst airlines I have travelled with, as I had no choice. Pathetic staff & awful service. Never again . A small suggestion/ feedback to anyone who is planning on using them, “ BEWARE “. They are just waiting to rob you of your money.

  9. If they keep the same seats as Oman Air it’ll have the most comfy premium and economy cabin (They offer 1-2-1 full flat biz, and 34″ pitch econ seats on old configured A330s).

  10. It’s not a good thing at all for a (new) low cost carrier to travel international just look at WOW and at Monarch etc, except if it is a carrier like Easy Jet or Wizz who are strong enough to manage problems.

  11. I’d recommend that any passengers are quarantined coming off those planes. In New Zealand many Indian New Zealand residents ( many not Nz born) have been picked up on entry to Nz with coronavirus. We don’t have many cases but there seems to be an over representation of cases entering our country from that area.

  12. 1) all airlines in India are low cost – but they give you food for an hour flight.
    2) I’ve flown Spice Jet many times and have found the service to be delightful
    3) Last year I flew Spice Jet on an aircraft they got from Jet Airways – didn’t even repaint, just slapped a Spice Jet sticker over the JA logo on the side of the plane
    4) I think you’re being hypercritical of this move – have you been to India, Ben?

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