Widebodies Inbound: SpiceJet To Receive 777s As 737 MAX Compensation

SpiceJet has confirmed today that it will acquire two 777-200ERs from Boeing as part of its 737 MAX settlement. The airline plans to deploy the aircraft on long-haul routes to as far as North America or on cargo services depending on the pandemic’s trajectory. Let’s find out more.

SpiceJet, Boeing 737 MAX, Return To Service
We are slowly learning more about SpiceJet’s compensation from Boeing for the MAX’s absence. Photo: Boeing

Finally long-haul

While SpiceJet has discussed the possibility of going long-haul several times, it has yet to lease or buy its own planes. However, all of that is set to change today. In a statement to the Times of India, SpiceJet CEO Ajay Singh confirmed that the airline will receive two 777-200ERs from Boeing as compensation for the 30-month grounding of the 737 MAX.

The airline has two possible plans for its 777s. They will either be deployed on passenger services with North America as the most likely destination. Eagle-eyed spotters might remember that SpiceJet secured flight rights to fly to the US earlier this summer but did not make use of them. However, with widebodies on the way, the airline might formally apply for slots.

Ajay Singh, CEO and Managing Director of low-frills Spicejet for IT story on Low Cost Airlines.
Ajay Singh has long wanted to make SpiceJet a long-haul airline. Photo: Getty Images

However, the presence of the Omicron variant might cause the airline to push back passenger services and instead focus on its key segment currently, cargo. In a statement, Singh said,

“The situation is very fluid. Let us see how it pans out. If the pandemic situation keeps improving, which it was before Omicron, then it makes sense to deploy the B777s for scheduled passenger flights. If not, then cargo,”

Ambitions fulfilled

Up until now, no Indian low-cost carrier has gone long-haul, though both of the country’s biggest airlines have spoken about it several times. With the acquisition of 777s, SpiceJet has a chance to become India’s third long-haul carrier and enter the newly competitive North American market.

However, before you start looking for ticket dates, we have been down this road before. Last year, SpiceJet announced that it would begin passenger services to London using one of Hi Fly’s A330neos. However, a new wave of cases and a lockdown in the UK meant that the plans were effectively scrapped.

SpiceJet 737-800BDSF
SpiceXpress is the only profitable part of the airline and has grown at a breakneck pace through the pandemic. Photo: Getty Images

The alternative is that the 777s go to SpiceJet’s newly spun-off cargo arm, SpiceXpress. SpiceXpress was set to become separate from the parent airline and will pursue its own cargo expansion, hoping to secure a larger share of the Indian market. The 777 would definitely be helpful here, allowing it to compete with larger cargo airlines like Cathay Pacific and Emirates.

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SpiceJet’s road to recovery

It was not too long ago that the financial viability of SpiceJet was in question. However, with the pandemic easing in India and the domestic market approaching full capacity, the carrier may be able to chart a path to recovery and possibly even profitability. The sale of SpiceXpress will be a huge shot in the arm of the airline’s finances and allow it to reduce its debt.

Multiple Indian airlines parked
India’s domestic market is quickly approaching a full recovery, but the Omicron variant could reverse all of this. Photo: Getty Images

For now, keep an eye out for the delivery of SpiceJet’s 777s. These won’t be new aircraft but would be two that were either undelivered or returned to Boeing over the last few years. SpiceJet is headed down an interesting path, and it will be exciting to see whether it succeeds.

What do you think about SpiceJet’s acquisition of the 777? Should they use it for passenger or cargo operations? Let us know in the comments.