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
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?