India’s largest domestic carrier, IndiGo, and Istanbul-based Turkish Airlines, a member of Star Alliance, today announced a codeshare and mutual cooperation agreement. The signed codeshare and mutual cooperation agreement between the two carriers, the effectiveness of which is subject to receipt by IndiGo and Turkish Airlines of all necessary Board and regulatory approvals, will enable both carriers to provide more flexibility of choice to their respective customers to fly on sectors between India, Istanbul and beyond.
This is the first codeshare agreement for IndiGo as part of its international expansion strategy. Through this cooperation, Turkish Airlines will be offering new destinations in India as Marketing Carrier on IndiGo operated flights, while IndiGo customers will be able to reach many European destinations through Turkish Airlines’ extensive network. This reciprocal arrangement will allow Turkish Airlines and IndiGo to provide seamless connections to their customers, besides enabling them to use through check-in and many other facilities. IndiGo will place its code “6E” on 20 points beyond Istanbul operated by Turkish Airlines. Similarly, Turkish Airlines will use its code “TK” on IndiGo operated flights within India.
Early December, there were media reports about IndiGo being in talks with Qatar & Turkish for codeshare.
The deal between the two airlines is not interline but codeshare which gives miles to frequent fliers of Turkish and possibly partner airlines who fly IndiGo – an airline which so far has shied away from a frequent flier program despite its large market share in India – a country where traffic is predominantly driven by low fare.
The Air Services Agreement (ASA) with Turkey is restricted to 14 frequencies and Turkish has been flying to Delhi and Mumbai with daily services, the airline flies to 257 international destinations across 124 countries and the growing outbound traffic from India is of prime importance for any carrier offering such a large network. The star alliance member already code shares its flights with Air India between India & Turkey.
IndiGo is slated to take delivery of its first A321neo in the coming days and could use this type for flights to Istanbul. With just 14 frequencies on offer, the choice would be down to Mumbai and Delhi, depending on the availability of slots at Mumbai.
While the system which IndiGo uses allows it to code share, the real problem will be at the operations end along with the class of service. Turkish Airlines offers lie flat beds in the Business Class on its flights between India & Istanbul and its narrow body fleet of B737s and A320 family offers recliner seats in Business Class. Compare that with the all economy configuration of IndiGo, the first or last leg of the journey comes with decreased comfort for a premium passenger.
At Delhi – the largest hub for IndiGo, the airline operates out of three terminals, one for international flights and two for domestic destinations and at Mumbai – it’s out of two different terminals, one each for domestic and international. The terminal transfer will not be seamless for the connecting passenger and a longer connecting time as compared to full service peers like Jet Airways or Air India and even Vistara which has shored with Interline and Code Share pacts in quick succession.
Turkey has been requesting additional seats and amendment of ASA with India to launch more services. While the policy stipulated by the government talks about re-negotiating the ASA when both sides reach 80% of the allotment, there are other political factors which play a role, more often than not.
The flights to Istanbul will be a good stepping stone for IndiGo to test the waters for future widebody expansion, traffic to Eastern Europe where it can possibly launch non-stop flights in future with the A321neos in its fleet.
The traffic potential will be known in detail when the points beyond Istanbul are identified and the flights are open for sale. Turkish Tourism board had started earlier this year that they have recorded a 91% growth in tourists from India between January and August.