SpiceJet has firmed up plans to launch the first long-haul low-cost flights between India and the UK.
The airline will connect Delhi (DEL) and Mumbai (BOM) with London Heathrow (LHR) from Dec. 4, flying 2X-weekly and 1X-weekly respectively. A leased Airbus A330-900neo will be used to operate the routes with 353 economy seats and 18 business-class seats.
“This is a huge milestone for us, and I am proud of the fact that SpiceJet will be the first Indian low-cost airline to operate non-stop long-haul flights to the UK,” chairman and MD Ajay Singh said.
“Providing non-stop connectivity from India to different parts of the world and strengthening our own airport hubs has been a long-cherished dream and with our London operations we have taken a small step in that direction.”
In July, Gurugram-based SpiceJet was awarded designated carrier status by the Indian government to serve the US and the UK as part of a "bubble" arrangement.
The carrier later secured slots at LHR effective up to end of the summer schedule on Oct. 23. SpiceJet said the slots have now been extended for the entire winter season.
The LCC operates a fleet of Boeing 737s and De Havilland Canada Dash 8s, according to CAPA Fleet Database, but it is understood to have taken the A330-900neo on wet lease from Portuguese charter company Hi Fly in order to operate medium- and long-haul flights.
Although long-haul travel demand remains depressed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the launch of the DEL-LHR and BOM-LHR routes will fill a gap in the market created by the grounding of Jet Airways and collapse of Thomas Cook.
Prior to Jet suspending operations in April 2019, the airline operated flights from BOM to LHR and Manchester (MAN), and between DEL and LHR. Thomas Cook also provided leisure routes to Goa (GOI) from London Gatwick (LGW) and MAN until its failure in September 2019.
The exit of Jet and Thomas Cook from India-UK routes left British Airways, Air India, TUI Airways and Virgin Atlantic as the only operators of nonstop flights between the two countries.
Data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser shows capacity between India and the UK dropped by 18% in 2019 to 2.8 million two-way seats, compared with the previous 12 months. However, despite the reduction of available seats on direct services, Sabre Market Intelligence data reveals that O&D traffic increased to 3.3 million passengers, up 6% year-on-year.
Photo credit: Airbus / A. Doumenjou