SpiceJet flew its first flight to Canada this week, carrying 352 passengers from New Delhi to Toronto. This marks the low-cost carrier’s second long-haul flight, after its recent Amsterdam flight. SpiceJet is pushing to break into the long-haul market, using wet leased A330neos from Hi Fly, and now has permission to fly to the US and UK.
Second long-haul flight
SpiceJet’s flight to Canada is its first outbound repatriation flight, carrying Canadian citizens and residents to Toronto. The previous flight, from Amsterdam to Bangalore, and onward to Hyderabad, on August 1st, was the carrier’s first long-haul flight.
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The flight took off from New Delhi at 08:26 local yesterday en route to Toronto. According to FlightRadar24, the plane stopped at Lisbon for two hours before continuing to Toronto. However, SpiceJet’s statements say the flight was non-stop to North America. We have reached out to SpiceJet for clarification on this.
The flights are a part of India’s wide-ranging Vande Bharat Mission, which is a repatriation operation for Indians and those stranded in India. India also recently opened travel bubbles with several countries, allowing foreign carriers to operate. However, a travel bubble with Canada is still to happen.
SpiceJet has quickly gone from being an Indian medium-haul carrier to one with permissions to fly to the likes of the US and UK. The airline also recently bagged a coveted Heathrow slot, despite not having its own fleet of widebodies for operation. However, questions over its strategy remain.
While SpiceJet originally had plans to lease A330s from Oman Air, it quickly shifted to signing a deal with Hi Fly instead. However, according to statements in Moneycontrol, SpiceJet is yet to receive final permission for its wet lease agreement with Hi Fly, which is why flights are still not operating with SpiceJet flight numbers. This arrangement will likely be finalized soon since SpiceJet plans to continue flying repatriation flights.
While SpiceJet is looking to make its way into the currently-underserved market, competition remains, both from home and foreign airlines. Vistara, with a fleet of 787s, is set to operate flights to London, Paris, and Frankfurt, which could put it in direct competition with SpiceJet’s European repatriation flights.
Air France and United are both already operating flights from India, with British Airways set to begin next week. This would cover large parts of the European and US market and will bring back competition in the Indian market after months of only-Air India flights. Once pent-up demand is met, SpiceJet could find that the market already has many players.
SpiceJet is currently following a different strategy. The airline is identifying high-demand markets and flying to such destinations, ensuring that it can have a near-full flight on every route. This could prove as a sustainable model during the current pandemic since travel remains restricted in India.
However, SpiceJet might have to look to a dry lease or acquiring its own planes for long-term, long-haul operations, which could be an expensive proposition.
What do you think about SpiceJet’s long-haul plans? Let us know in the comments!