Sunday, July 14, 2024

IndiGo’s Flight to Bali Reopens Debate on Frills vs No Frills

By Ameya Joshi

Ameya Joshi, Aviation Analyst & Columninst

IndiGo – India’s largest carrier by fleet and market share will touch down in Bali later this month. This will be the second destination for the airline in Indonesia, having launched Jakarta last year. This makes it the longest route operated by IndiGo on its A320neo family fleet. While the airline operates to Jakarta from Mumbai, the route to Denpasar, Bali will be served from Bengaluru. Flights begin March 29, 2024, and will depart from Terminal 2 at Bengaluru at fifty minutes past midnight, reaching Bali at 10:20 hours local time – which will be seven hours and the return flight will depart Bali at 11:20 hours local time and reach Bengaluru at 15:15 hours the same day, a time of six hours and twenty-five minutes.

This makes IndiGo the second Indian operator to Bali, with Vistara operating non-stop from Delhi which started on December 01, 2023. This also makes it the third non-stop to Indonesia from India and one of the handful of countries where the Indian carriers have flights but the other side does not. The great circle distance between Bengaluru and Bali is 4800 km, while between Mumbai and Jakarta is 4637 km. Mumbai – Nairobi’s great circle distance is 4531 km. The Delhi – Istanbul sector which sees IndiGo deploy its damp leased B77Ws is a great circle distance of 4574 kms. The Mumbai – Istanbul route is a tad longer at 4838 km but is operated by damp leased B77W.  This makes the Bengaluru – Bali flight the longest narrowbody flight in IndiGo’s network and will be operated by the A320neo and not the A321neo as per the booking engine.

Really long with no frills

The flight reignites an old debate on how long can one travel on slimline seats of the Low-Cost carrier without a charging port or fresh hot meals on offer. A look at the product on offer and it is the same 186-seat configured A320neo which plies umpteen flights on domestic routes. The slimline seats may be great for saving fuel but for a sector that is seven hours long, does it bode well for the passenger? IndiGo does not provide the pillow and blanket which is fairly standard with airlines flying in the international sector.

Over the years, in-flight entertainment has become common, so much so that value carriers like Batik Air have personalized screens and low-cost carriers like AirAsia have streaming possible on phones. IndiGo has neither, as it sticks to its core low-cost philosophy but as it targets more international growth and longer flights, this will be one area which will be tested. With the long-lasting battery life of phones and people having multiple devices, the argument often favours what is known as BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. However, each comes with its own battery time and IndiGo does not have ports either to support charging, restricting its use to a few hours.

Indians love food, but with IndiGo’s “no oven” policy, the hot meals have been restricted to the ones that are ready to eat by pouring hot water. The airline has not faced challenges within India, going by its market share but for longer flights – does it bode well?

Does cost triumph over everything else?

While the challenges are known, its last such launch to Jakarta from Mumbai has been doing very well going by the loads and fares. This means, there exists a market that prefers lower cost and higher convenience, which translates to higher fares in the future as people get used to convenience and tend to pay more than before for it.

India is always known to be a cost-conscious market but will there be a repeat customer? In this case, holidays to Bali are not repeated and thus a repeat customer is not needed. However, for IndiGo to expand, a happy customer brings word-of-mouth publicity like no other and there is a need to succeed so that it can launch longer flights on the A321XLR which will join its fleet next year.

New Delhi, India, April 16 2023 – Indigo Airbus A320 take off from Indra Gandhi International Airport Delhi, Indigo domestic aeroplane flying in the blue sky during day time

Tail Note

The India – Indonesia connectivity has seen many ups and downs. This included the non-stop flights to Mumbai by Garuda Indonesia from Denpasar Bali which lasted less than a year. The other options were largely one-stop like those by Indonesia AirAsia X and Garuda Indonesia (Jakarta to Mumbai via Bangkok). The southernmost tip of India and the northernmost point of Indonesia are less than 150 km apart. The relations between the two countries are often traced back to mentions in the Ramayana. In modern times, diplomatic relations were established in 1951.

Will this route become the first route for the A321XLR when it is inducted by IndiGo? At 4800 km, this is really testing the A320neos range to its limit. While it may do well in summer, the winds in winter could have an adverse impact on the operations. Airbus has said that the A321XLR is now scheduled for entry in service in the third quarter of the year. IndiGo may not be the launch customer, but it certainly is one of the first few customers. Will IndiGo retain the current seats and the no-ovens policy or the XLRs will usher IndiGo to a new era totally?

Ameya Joshi is an aviation analyst and columnist who runs the analysis website Network Thoughts

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