The Suratis are rejoicing and for a reason! IndiGo – country’s leading airline by market share has announced flights to Surat connecting Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Jaipur effective 16th August 2018. This will make IndiGo the fourth scheduled airline at Surat which recently saw AirAsia India start services. Spicejet and Air India are the other scheduled operators.
The airline has gone all out in to the market after a very long time. The last two years have seen IndiGo being plagued by delivery delays of the Airbus A320neo owing to the engines issues. The airline had opted for Pratt & Whitney engines for its A320neo and the engine issues have led to the airline looking at the lease market to add capacity. Some of the A320ceo which it has inducted are as old as 14 years. The induction this year has largely been driven by the ATR where the airline has added multiple frequencies on same route in quick succession in the southern states of India.
The all-out entry into Surat has brought back another thing – cheeky branding. Kya Surat Hai! Joins some of the earlier cheeky branding like IndiPo to Chennai, O man! And Sheikh it, baby, which was how the airline launched flights to Chennai, Muscat and Dubai.
Surat will be connected to Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Jaipur. However, these are replacements and not new fleet additions. A combination of lack of aircraft inductions and slot constraints at Mumbai and Delhi has meant that the airline has reduced one frequency each on Mumbai – Hyderabad – Mumbai, Delhi – Trivandrum – Delhi and has pulled out of Jaipur – Jammu – Jaipur to accommodate Mumbai – Surat, Delhi – Surat – Bengaluru and 3x weekly Jaipur – Surat flights.
6E6065 Delhi 0630 – 0820 Surat Daily
6E2129 Surat 2210 – 0000 Delhi Daily
6E6065 Surat 0850 – 1040 Bengaluru Ex Tue
6E2065 Bengaluru 1110 – 1300 Surat Ex Tue
6E723 Hyderabad 1620 – 1750 Surat Daily
6E722 Surat 1820 – 1950 Hyderabad Daily
6E264 Mumbai 1520 – 1650 Surat Daily
6E983 Surat 1720 – Mumbai 1835 Daily
6E941 Jaipur 1340 – 1520 Surat M,W,F
6E942 Surat 1550 – 1720 Jaipur M,W,F
Will the airline start International flight from Surat? Media reports indicate that Air India Express is likely to start services from Surat to Sharjah but the large gap in the schedule of IndiGo makes me think that IndiGo will pip Air India Express in being the first international flight from Surat. The airline has changed its departure times to Delhi from Surat, pushing it ahead by 30 minutes since it first announced the Surat schedule. From 2130, the return flight to Delhi would now depart at 2210 hours. A quick glance at the ground times and checking of block times make me think that the airline may utilize the aircraft to operate to Sharjah reaching at 1530 hours and leaving an hour later to reach back in Surat at 2100 hours.
If at all this prediction is right, this would be a repeat of Chandigarh where Air India Express announced the flights first and were soon joined in by IndiGo. The airline has done something similar in the domestic skies multiple times in the past.
The Suratis could well chant Sheikh it baby soon !
The airline is also launching a daily direct flight between Mumbai & Bagdogra effective 16thAugust which comes by reducing one frequency on Mumbai – Delhi – Mumbai sector.
Last May, I had written Is Surat the opportunity which airlines missed? , in which I had talked about “lack of slots at other airports and cut throat competition taking a toll on yields and revenue” and how it would be helpful to selective look for flights which will give higher returns. In June the same year, Spicejet started additional services from Surat from where it connects the city with non-stop flights to Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Mumbai. AirAsia India launched services between Bengaluru and Surat last month with single daily service.
Was it Surat maturing as a market to attract IndiGo, lack of options for the airline to expand profitably in challenging times or a case of mirroring AirAsia India? While this will remain unanswered, one thing is for sure that city of Surat – one of the top 10 cities in the country by population, will be making its presence felt on the air map like never before.