News that Indian low-cost carrier SpiceJet is preparing to fly to the US and UK has taken many by surprise. The airline operates a fleet of Boeing 737s and Bombardier Q400s, neither of which have the range to fly to these countries non-stop. However, SpiceJet does have a plan to reach these long-haul destinations.
The simple answer to how SpiceJet will fly long-haul is wet leasing. A wet lease is when a lessor provides an airline with the plane as well as the crew. This allows an airline to almost immediately start flying the leased plane, without needing its own crew or certifications.
SpiceJet is not new to wet leasing , the airline has previously taken on A320s to fill gaps in its schedule due to the MAX crisis. A number of airlines wet lease planes to add capacity when their fleets are facing an issue or there is high demand. The current crisis has hit lessors hard, with airlines canceling wet least contracts due to the drop in demand.
Oman Air to provide planes
SpiceJet’s wet lease agreement is reported to be with Oman Air to provide up to three A330s. The A330 offers enough range to reach the UK from India, although it could fall short of reaching the US depending on the variant.
Oman Air is also offering one more valuable asset to SpiceJet: a slot at London Heathrow, according to sources. In a different time (just a year ago actually), slots at Heathrow sold for millions each due to capacity restrictions. Oman Air itself holds the record for the most expensive slot purchase at $75 million for a primetime slot.
However, 2020 has upturned the previous rules of the airline world, with Oman Air now willing to give up its Heathrow slot with a wet lease agreement. Oman Air’s A330s will be a good fit for SpiceJet, allowing them to fly to London immediately and fulfill the pent-up demand in the market.
Questions and competition remains
While it does sound like SpiceJet is ready to jump into the market and provide a low-cost alternative, some important questions remain. SpiceJet itself is yet to make any official announcements about its long-haul plans, except that it has permission from the Indian government to fly. There are still no details about the wet lease or reciprocal permissions from the US and UK.
However, all may not be smooth sailing for SpiceJet, even if it does begin flights. Air India already operates multiple, daily India-London services and holds a monopoly over direct flights from India. This has only become more prominent during the current Vande Bharat repatriation mission, where Air India was the only airline flying long-haul until this week.
India is also in the process of establishing a travel bubble with the UK, which allows British carriers to fly to India as well. This means SpiceJet will also have to compete with British Airways and possibly Virgin Atlantic, for a share of the market.
It’s clear that SpiceJet has a lot to discuss before flights officially start. However, with pent-up demand in the market, SpiceJet’s lower prices could attract many who wish to return home or travel to their countries. We will likely find out more of these plans in the coming weeks, and be sure to keep you updated.
What do you think about SpiceJet’s plans? Let us know in the comments!