IndiGo plans seven-hour overseas flights, depending on Covid recovery

Want to holiday in Beijing, Moscow, Cairo, Nairobi, Jakarta, Manila… or perhaps eastern Europe grabs your fancy? plans to launch overseas flights of up to seven hours duration from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata, some of them with its longer-range Airbus A321s. All this depends on countries lifting Covid-related restrictions and regular international flights resuming.

“As soon as this Covid comes down, you will see us going in every direction. We were ready for it before Covid,” IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta told ET. “And we have so many markets within six, seven hours… Places like Beijing, Moscow, Cairo, Nairobi, Jakarta, Manila, and all the CIS countries in between them. I am giving the outer periphery, and this is a very attractive geography.”

The airline can launch international flights from hubs such as Delhi, Bombay, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata.

“We are very excited about it, and we are going to grow in a very, very aggressive manner,” Dutta said.

India cancelled international flights in March last year, resuming limited services through Vande Bharat and bubble corridors. Regular overseas flights were to resume in the summer but the second wave of the pandemic put paid to those plans. Given that the Delta variant is seen as a more infectious variant of the virus and fears of a possible third wave, restarting overseas flights appears some distance away.

Resumption will depend on the behaviour of the virus and vaccination progress in India and other countries.

The country’s largest carrier in terms of market share and number of seats, IndiGo plans to expand overseas with its Airbus A320s and A321s.

“IndiGo was 25% international and 75% domestic before Covid impacted travel and our plans had been that we will get to about close to 55-60% domestic and 35-40% international in five years,” Dutta said. “Now, how quickly we can get there again we will have to wait and see. But I would like to be at least 40% international in five years (from the day international flights resume).”

The IndiGo plan will bolster the Indian government’s move to limit foreign flying rights. This had prevented foreign carriers from adding more flights, while giving room to Indian airlines to increase their overseas services.

IndiGo doesn’t have any plans to induct dual-aisle, wide-bodied planes such as the Airbus A350 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner or launch flights to further destinations in Europe and the Americas for now.

“Airbus 321 XLRs start coming in year 2024 and beyond. And they are a very good airplane to go to places like Milan or Munich but not to London,” Dutta said.

He said international expansion would take place in phases and the airline would gradually expand to destinations further out, avoiding the error of over-extending itself as others did. IndiGo’s strategy is to fly to high-traffic destinations and develop a market by creating demand through low-fare offerings, among other incentives.

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