- IndiGo is launching flights to Rajkot from March 28, 2021
- Spicejet and Air India are adding capacity in anticipation
- Rajkot was one of the top five airports most affected by the clousre of Jet Airways
For years together, Rajkot Airport and Jet Airways were synonymous! At its peak the airline operated four daily flights but normally operated thrice a day, more often than not with B737-700s of Jetlite(S2) its subsidiary. Along with Air India, the airport saw five daily flights to Mumbai and that’s about it. At some point of time, AirIndia Regional started offering an ATR service to Delhi! Rajkot was one of the few airports which saw over half of its traffic disappear overnight when Jet Airways suspended operations. This was because Rajkot was one of the handful airports which had a monumental presence or near monopoly from Jet Airways.
Since Jet Airways vacated the space, Spicejet entered. Ironic, as it may seem – most of the flights were operated by the B737s which earlier operated for Jet Airways. But a good route hardly goes unnoticed and market leader IndiGo is jumping in with flights to Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi and Mumbai effective March 28, 2021.
The airline would operate at below timings with the A320 family aircraft.
6E0382 BOM1045 – 1145RAJ
6E6089 RAJ1215 – 1340BOM
6E0717 DEL1030 – 1235RAJ
6E2027 RAJ1305 – 1455DEL
6E6719 HYD1345 – 1530RAJ
6E0432 RAJ1600 – 1745HYD
6E6507 BLR1705 – 1920RAJ
6E6508 RAJ1950 – 2200BLR
Why now for IndiGo?
Rajkot has always been a high yield destination! Most high yield destinations in India are so because of lack of capacity and in most cases additional capacity deployment is not possible due to infrastructural issues at Origin or Destination. In case of Rajkot, IndiGo never had the luxury of additional slots to diversify its offerings. Even now, the airline has started new routes by rejigging its existing network.
The problem is even grave at Rajkot – a short runway and an apron which can accommodate only one A320/B737 aircraft at a time (along with an ATR) makes it challenging and a delay for any of the flight has a cascading effect across airlines!
How is Spicejet responding?
Spicejet has made the most of the time it had at Rajkot. The airline has had to retreat from many battles – at Agartala being the last prime example where it had significant presence but the onslaught from IndiGo led to weakening of fares and eventually the airline vacated the route and station.
Spicejet has upped the ante by re-jigging its network. The airline will operate double daily flights to Delhi but shift from the B737s to Q400s. It will also operate the Hyderabad route with the Q400s while offering double daily services from Mumbai on the B737s. But can it hold on or will it throw in the towel?
SG2643 DEL0615 – 0855RAJ
SG2644 RAJ0915 – 1130DEL
SG3237 DEL1705 – 1935RAJ
SG3238 RAJ1955 – 2220DEL
SG3749 HYD1120 – 1335RAJ
SG3750 RAJ1400 – 1615HYD
SG0435 BOM0640 – 0800RAJ
SG0436 RAJ0830 – 0940BOM
SG0223 BOM1540 – 1645RAJ
SG0224 RAJ1715 – 1845BOM
There is a third player to the picture – national carrier Air India which has remained solid and holding on to its ground pre-Jet Airways and post- Jet Airways. Infact, the national carrier is also throwing in its hat with doubly daily flights to Rajkot. While earlier the Rajkot flight was primarily a connecting or a feeder flight for its international operations, things have changed due to the current suspension of international services and instead Air India is offering business timed flights to connect Rajkot to Mumbai!
AI601 BOM0500 – 0610RAJ
AI602 RAJ0640 – 0750BOM
AI655 BOM1625 – 1735RAJ
AI656 RAJ1805 – 1915BOM
AI403 DEL1250 – 1435RAJ
AI404 RAJ1510 – 1645DEL
Rajkot airport (IATA: RAJ) is a civilian airport and does not have any space to expand thus limiting its ability to get connected to multiple destinations across the country. The airport has only two bays, of which only one is capable of handling the A320 or B737 with the other being capable for ATR aircraft only. While a new airport for Rajkot has been approved, it is still a few years away. Shorter runway is a problem during summer when temperatures cross 40 degree C.
Rajkot is one of the major cities in the state of Gujarat and traffic primarily comprises of trade and businessmen traffic along with connections to foreign shores for Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR)
While capacity goes up overnight, demand hardly ever sees a similar spike. The initial days would see cheap fares being doled out to attract customers until flight schedules and demand patterns stabilise.
Will there be a casualty on any of the routes? My personal take is yes but who that would be would be interesting to see. Currently on the lucrative route to Mumbai, over 50% of the capacity would be deployed by Spicejet. Typically capacity leaders have the power to price and in this case comes with a benefit of better timings over IndiGo.
On routes from Delhi and Hyderabad, enthusiasts who also want to learn about aircraft would get to understand the demand a turboprop attracts versus the A320 and how the costs stack up at per seat level and trip level.
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