Go Air, the smallest airline amongst the old timers in India, is re-jigging its network effective the beginning of Summer Schedule (27th March 2016).
My first blog post (Go Air – The silent performer) was about this airline, where I had mentioned that the airline started with a philosophy of deploying additional capacity in Europe in the peak months of Europe, which co-insides with the lean season in India. However those experiments failed and the first few years were spent in choosing routes and discontinuing them. It wasn’t restricted to flights but extended to stations.
The airline seems to be now experimenting the same within India by re-deploying capacity during summer and winter seasons based on the demand changes on specific routes in the country.
Since my last blog post, the airline launched a new station Bhubaneshwar – connecting it from Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai. Go Air is now reducing frequencies to Bhubaneshwar drastically to have just one flight from Mumbai. The airline also did not take delivery of its 20th aircraft, which would have allowed it to start international operations. This move surprised many inside and outside the industry.
The airline which was in news for cancelling flights during the lean season of June & July in 2015 for speculated pilot shortage has certainly overcome those troubles under the experienced CEO Wolfgang Prock Shaeur who took over in June. The airline operated additional flights during the busy Diwali and X’mas holidays and also extended few of them to long weekends in January & February.
The airline announced launch of three interesting routes. Go Air will connect its hub in Mumbai with popular summer destination of Leh with a non-stop flight, a first in the industry. The airline started operations to Leh in last quarter of Calendar year 2010 when it took its fleet count to 10 from 8. The airline has been operating flights to Leh from Delhi with one stop connection from Mumbai.
Go Air will operate a triangular Mumbai – Leh – Srinagar – Mumbai flight which will help give additional connection to Srinagar from Mumbai, another destination which sees high loads in summer season.
The distance between Mumbai & Leh at 1730 kms along with the entire routing will give the airline enough Available Seat Kilometers (ASKMs) to operate 8 flights each way between Mumbai & Delhi to fulfill the Route Dispersal Guidelines. The airline had highest Category II ASKMs in January 2016.
The airline is also launching non-stop services between Bengaluru & Port Blair. Kingfisher airlines had operated scheduled services on this sector for a brief period. Go Air launched services to Port Blair in October 2011 when it launched flights from Delhi via Kolkata. The airline later connected Mumbai to Port Blair via Chennai in May 2012.
This change will also make it the only airline to operate late evening flights from Port Blair. Last year Spicejet had conducted trials for night landing in Port Blair. News reports also indicate that Go Air has been operating mid-night charters between Bengaluru & Port Blair on a weekly basis for last few months.
Specific data related to the traffic between the two cities is not available in public domain due to the lack of direct one-stop flights between the two cities. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation which has started sharing the city pair wise traffic on its website has data for flights which are direct or multiple stop with same flight number and not the connecting traffic.
The last of its innovative routes involve linking Bengaluru to Patna & Ranchi, again by a triangular Bengaluru – Patna – Ranchi – Bengaluru flight. However, rival IndiGo was quick to react by launching the same routing on 15th February, over a month before Go Air could start its services. IndiGo also offers one stop services to both Patna & Ranchi, via Bengaluru for the last few years.
These new services will help strengthen Go Air in its existing markets as it will help them strengthen their sales network by offering wider choice. However the long flights, especially the ones from Mumbai to Leh are likely to see lower yields but higher passenger numbers at a per unit basis, as compared to the same parameters on Delhi – Leh sector.
The airline is yet to fully update its schedule on its website and currently sees a lot of flights with same flight number across different sectors. With a fleet size of 19 serving 22 destinations and an estimated 142 daily flights, these 8 flights comprise about 5% of its daily capacity and is a good move because even if the flights do not do as good as expected, it would not hurt the airline.
The last time the airline had looked out of the box was when it had launched these stations in 2010. Leh – where it is the only Low Cost Carrier (LCC) to operate, Port Blair – where there was no other LCC operated at the time of its entry and Ranchi – where it entered before IndiGo.
In the last few months, Go Air has been making some subtle branding and marketing changes by increasing its offerings. The airline has traditionally always been late to the party and a market follower and not a trend setter.
It now has boarding card privileges – where in it has tied up with some premium hotels and spa chains. Go Air has never been associated with a premium image, but has always been a niche player in the market, holding on to its limited but profitable network.
Recently, it also introduced Jain Meals along with Priority check-in and Priority Baggage, along with hand baggage only fare. Sadly, the airline has not been able to have a large social media or traditional media presence and certainly not as much as Spicejet which was instrumental in launching most of these and with much fanfare.
Go Air lost marginal market share in Calendar year 2015. However, it was more due to realignment of the market. The airline carried 69.28 lakh passengers in 2015, 12% more than what it did in 2014. This is a good addition to have, considering that the capacity increase was marginal without any aircraft induction. The airline saw 3% and 4% increase in Departures and ASKMs respective in 2015 over 2014.
While the airline operates to all metros now except Hyderabad, the airline seems to have identified New Delhi, Mumbai & Bengaluru as the key market drivers as indicated by the CEO in one of the interviews recently with the focus being on addition of network from these cities only. It has an advantage at Mumbai, where it operates one third the number of flights of market leader IndiGo when it has just one fifth its fleet strength. The airline has to continue to leverage upon due to the congested nature of Mumbai limiting expansion.
- Withdrawing one aircraft based in Kolkata and basing in Bengaluru
- Reduction in services from Kolkata. Sectors cancelled as below
- Kolkata – Patna
- Kolkata – Bagdogra
- Kolkata – Bhubaneshwar
- New routes launched
- Mumbai – Leh – Srinagar – Mumbai
- Bengaluru – Patna – Ranchi – Bengaluru
- Bengaluru – Port Blair – Bengaluru
- Rationalization of timings on metro sector
- Mid-day Bengaluru – Mumbai departure shifted to evening
- Morning departures on Bengaluru – Delhi advanced
- Increasing frequency on Delhi – Srinagar – Delhi sector from current 2 direct flights to 4 direct flights with return being 5x direct daily
- Pull-out from Delhi – Bhubaneshwar – Delhi sector