American Airlines Adds IndiGo As Its Partner In India

In preparation for American’s return to India, it has announced a new codeshare partnership with IndiGo. India’s largest airline will allow American Airlines to provide onward feed to 29 destinations from Bangalore and New Delhi – the two cities American is planning to serve. There will also be benefits for frequent flyer members.

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American Airlines has announced a new partnership with IndiGo in India. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

American adds IndiGo codeshare

American and IndiGo announced a new codeshare agreement covering select routes out of Bangalore (BLR) and New Delhi (DEL). Subject to government approval, the agreement will see American place its code on 29 of IndiGo’s domestic routes, offering onward connectivity for passengers.

The map below shows the proposed codeshare:

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The proposed codeshare agreements with IndiGo and American Airlines. Photo: American Airlines

AAdvantage loyalty members will earn miles when flying on one of the codeshare flights with IndiGo. Flights outside of the codeshare will not earn AAdvantage miles.

Separately, passengers flying in international business class on American’s flights from Delhi or Bangalore will have access to IndiGo partner lounges in their originating city. This means passengers in Ahmedabad or Mumbai will receive lounge access when connecting onto American’s nonstop flights to the US.

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Moving ahead with a launch to India

American currently anticipates launching flights from New York (JFK) to Delhi on October 31st. Seattle (SEA) to Bangalore flights are expected to launch on January 4th. The timing of these routes could change depending on demand and travel restrictions.

India is a growing market, and there is a lot of demand for flights between the United States and India. American will join United and Air India in operating nonstop flights. Vistara is similarly expected to launch US flights, though dates and routes are not yet available.

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American is not giving up on India. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The importance of short-haul partnerships

For American Airlines, having short-haul partnerships is incredibly important. As Vasu Raja, American’s Chief Revenue Officer explained in an exclusive webinar interview with Simple Flying:

“What we’re hungriest for are really great short-haul partners that are out there that complement our network. They can offer endpoint connectivity on to the network.”

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IndiGo will provide short-haul connections within India. Photo: Getty Images

So, while American does the heavy lifting of flying the Dreamliner or 777 to India, having the onward connections allows it to provide more options to drive bookings and become relevant to more customers in India, which will be crucial to sustaining flying. Even more than that, it allows American to grow, as Mr. Raja explained:

“So, as we look out into the world, we see that short haul space is one that’s evolving very dynamically, especially in emerging markets. Its a place where we can very quickly create a lot of value for customers, a lot of value for the partner, and sort of a core need of the airline which is to profitably grow long haul.”

IndiGo is a low-cost carrier. All of its planes are in an all-economy configuration. With over 270 aircraft already, it has orders for over 500 more aircraft, which will help power its growth significantly. While IndiGo is looking at the long-haul space with much interest, it is currently flying a very heavy domestic operation and some short-haul international flights.

American Airlines Adds IndiGo As Its Partner In India
IndiGo is gearing up for more growth, including longer routes, but the US remains out of reach. Photo: Airbus

While this may be off-putting to business customers, American is serving two major business hubs in India: Delhi and Bangalore. The onward connectivity will mainly be powering the incredible volume of visiting friends and relatives (VFR) market between the US and India and provide an alternative to United, which offers onward connections in India on Air India and Vistara.

It does relieve a lot of pressure on American to make a route like Seattle to Bangalore work solely on US-originating traffic, some India originating traffic, and primarily corporate demand. Given that there is already a lot of competition between the US and India via one-stop options in the Middle East and Europe, these partnerships help safeguard against that competitive environment.

A precursor to more growth in India?

American is just starting to come back to India. Bangalore and New Delhi are the first two cities American will connect to the US, but others may join the network. This includes Mumbai, which is the primary financial center in India. Delta, for example, used to fly to Mumbai when it served India.

American Airlines Adds IndiGo As Its Partner In India
The Boeing 787 will be crucial to power some additional growth to India. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

There could also be opportunities to expand in both cities. India is a market of interest for American Airlines. With new jumping-off points in Boston and Seattle thanks to its partnership with JetBlue and Alaska, respectively, it would not be surprising to see American add more flying to India if these two routes do incredibly well.

There is already some indication that the carrier is seeing success on at least one of these routes. The airline recently announced an upgauge of flights from New York to Delhi to a Boeing 777-300ER, the carrier’s flagship international aircraft and the only American widebody to feature a dedicated international first class product.