By Staff Correspondent
SpiceJet, the budget airline, is gearing up to inflate its flight roster in the forthcoming winter season, eyeing a windfall from the twin attractions of seasonal festivities and the Cricket World Cup. Sources intimate with the development have nudged the airline towards reinforcing its aircraft arsenal to capitalise on these events.
As per a recent media disclosure by an insider, the airline is on the runway to augment its fleet, with discussions underway to lease 11 additional aircraft. The timing dovetails with the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) winter schedule kicking off on October 29, 2023.
The airline’s internal circles are abuzz with plans to re-activate grounded aircraft to cater to the anticipated uptick in demand as the mercury dips. The celebratory season spearheaded by Diwali in November, coupled with the Cricket World Cup swinging into action from October 5 to November 19, forms a conducive backdrop. Cirium schedules data reveals that during the analogous period in 2022, seat bookings to and from India swelled from 25.6 million to 27.9 million amid the cricketing gala.
India’s aviation market is already on an upswing, a trend further buoyed by high-octane events. A draft policy from the Indian Ministry of Tourism, unveiled in July 2022, underscored the allure of mega sporting fixtures like the Cricket and Football World Cups and Formula 1 Racing in magnetising high-spending tourists to host destinations, thereby fuelling inbound tourism.
Market Share Turbulence
However, SpiceJet’s flight path has encountered turbulence, ceding market share to rivals including the nascent Akasa Air. Data from the Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) illustrates a descent from 10.2% market share in Q1 2022 to 7.4% in Q4 2022, further plummeting to 4.4% by August 2023, despite Go First temporarily grounding its operations in May.
Incumbents like Air India, AirAsia India (destined to merge with Air India Express), Akasa Air, and IndiGo have swooped in on the market space vacated by Go First and SpiceJet’s misfortunes. The period saw Air India’s market slice expanding from 9% in Q1 2023 to 9.9% in July, while AirAsia India also charted growth from 7.3% to 7.8% between the first two quarters of the year.
IndiGo, in particular, soared with its market share burgeoning from 55.7% at the close of Q1 2023 to 60.7% by the end of the subsequent quarter.
Unlike Go First, which attributed its operational snags to Pratt & Whitney and the PW1100G engine outfitted on its Airbus A320neo fleet, SpiceJet has navigated through rough weather with its lessors. Since 2023’s onset, the airline bade farewell to 13 aircraft, as per Ch-aviation data. This exodus encompassed four Boeing 737 MAX, five 737-800, and four De Havilland Canada Dash 8 Q400 aircraft, all tethered to leasing firms including Air Lease Corporation (ALC) and SMNBC Aviation Capital.
In a bid to smooth relations, SpiceJet liquidated its dues to several lessors in September, parting with company shares valued over $28 million. Although the airline also inducted three aircraft on a wet lease basis from other operators, its fleet still harbours 25 idle jets out of 60, with a bulk being 15 DHC Dash 8 Q400s either stored or under maintenance. As the last Boeing 737 MAX landed with SpiceJet in July 2019, the airline’s order book with Boeing still awaits the fulfilment of 129 aircraft, portraying a mixed picture of SpiceJet’s quest to regain altitude amidst a dynamic aviation landscape.