Delta Fights Back Against SpiceJet US Flight Application

Indian low-cost carrier SpiceJet has big plans to augment its international operations with long-haul flights in the coming years. One market that the airline has its eye on is the USA. However, US legacy carrier Delta is looking to block these plans. The reason for this is said to be the lack of reciprocity regarding codesharing with its partner airlines on flights to India.

Delta plane getty
Delta Air Lines is opposed to SpiceJet’s plans to serve the American market. Photo: Getty Images

Low-cost long-haul aspirations

SpiceJet is an Indian low-cost carrier that had previously carried a largely domestic focus. Indeed, the airline serves 54 destinations in the world’s second-most populous country. In addition to these, SpiceJet operates a handful of international flights to Asian and Middle Eastern destinations. However, its plans going forward target markets much further afield. This is despite having recorded an $80 million loss in the second quarter of 2020.

In August, SpiceJet flew its first long-haul international widebody flight, repatriating 270 Indians from Amsterdam to Bengaluru and Hyderabad. It leased an Airbus A330neo from HiFly for this operation. The airline has since outlined plans to operate scheduled services to destinations outside its usual hunting ground of Asia and the Middle East. Indeed, its flights serving London would have commenced on December 4th, were it not for the UK’s second lockdown period.

SpiceJet take-off in the UK
SpiceJet had planned to commence long-haul operations to the UK earlier this month. Photo: Getty Images

Plans to serve the American market

However, Europe is not the only long-haul market that SpiceJet has its eye on. Indeed, it has also applied to fly between its hub at Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport and New York JFK. It was initially permitted to do so in July, although the American Department of Transport only reported last month that it had filed an application.

The application concerned repatriation and PPE flights, rather than scheduled passenger operations. This was because India’s international travel ban had been extended to the end of the year.

Delta Fights Back Against SpiceJet US Flight Application
Delta is currently prohibited from codesharing on Dutch flag carrier KLM’s flights to India. Both airlines are members of the SkyTeam alliance. Photo: Getty Images

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Opposition due to a lack of reciprocity

Despite having officially been granted permission to apply to fly between India and the USA, SpiceJet’s plans have, nonetheless, faced opposition.

According to CH-Aviation, Delta Air Lines has appealed to the DOT to deny SpiceJet a foreign air carrier permit. It states:

“Delta objects on the basis of a lack of reciprocity afforded by the Government of India and urges the Department to delay granting approval of the requested authority until such time as the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation approves certain pending codesharing requests by Delta, consistent with the open skies US-India Air Transportation Agreement”

SpiceJet does not intend to change its plans, despite Delta’s opposition. Photo: Getty Images

Delta claims that the Indian government has prevented it from codesharing on Air France-KLM services to India since July. Last month, this practice was reauthorized for Air France flights. However, those operated by the Dutch flag carrier remain out of bounds for Delta.

SpiceJet has no plans to alter its application, despite the resistance it faces from Delta. While empathetic to the US legacy carrier’s frustration, it states the following, according to CH-Aviation:

“Delta’s attempt to use the SpiceJet application as a means to address its unrelated concerns about its request to codeshare with KLM, while understandable, is misdirected.”

A date does not appear to have been set for the commencement of SpiceJet’s USA flights. Nonetheless, it hopes to get them up and running as soon as possible. In light of the industry’s present financial difficulties, the airline’s long-haul fleet will continue to consist of wet-leased aircraft in the short-term.

What do you make of Delta’s opposition to SpiceJet’s proposed long-haul flights to the USA? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.