- IndiGo is launching flights to Kanpur from October 31, 2021
- Spicejet has a monopoly at Kanpur
IndiGo – the country’s largest carrier by fleet and domestic market share, is launching flights to Kanpur. Flights will be effective October 31, 2021. This will be the 71st station for IndiGo. Kanpur is the 11th most populous urban conglomerate in the country but interestingly was always ignored! The argument against operations at Kanpur was that the city lies less than two hours from Lucknow airport!
Kanpur is a commercial center of Uttar Pradesh and apart from the large population which makes it attractive for airlines, the city is a centre of leather trade and textile. Kanpur also acts as a gateway to Etawah and Jhansi – Orchha belt.
The city has had its brush with connectivity many times. Air India operated the CRJ-700s to Kanpur connecting the city with Delhi and Kolkata. Intermittently, the city went without connectivity. SpiceJet – as part of its strategy to differentiate, explored Kanpur to diversify from what other airlines are doing. The airline has tried that strategy of diversification at multiple places and it has worked well for the airline. The diversification is either at airport level, like Kanpur or Darbhanga which provides an alternative to Lucknow and Patna respecitvely or at route level where the airline has focused on some routes thought out to be niche like Pune – Surat, Pune – Jabalpur along with a heavy presence under RCS-UDAN.
As local media in Kanpur started reporting IndiGo’s imminent entry into Kanpur, SpiceJet started sending out emails to customers focusing on Kanpur connectivity. The airline operates flights to Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.
IndiGo will launch the flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad effective October 31, 2021. The timings will be as below
6E6427 DEL1010 – 1120KNU
6E6428 KNU1150 – 1300DEL
6E6368 HYD1200 – 1400KNU
6E0102 KNU1430 – 1635HYD
6E6477 BLR1050 – 1315KNU
6E6476 KNU1345 – 1605KNU
6E6475 BOM1255 – 1455KNU
6E6976 KNU1525 – 1745BOM
Flights between Delhi and Kanpur will be operated Daily while all other flights will operate on six days a week and not operate on Sunday.
Why now for IndiGo?
Lucknow – where IndiGo has a sizable presence, is running out of capacity. A new terminal building is under construction but that wouldn’t solve the problem of runway capacity. For Lucknow airport, Kanpur is a catchment area and the presence of SpiceJet and its growth becomes an automatic motivator for IndiGo to explore Kanpur. In its true style, the airline is entering with a barrage of flights and becomes the largest carrier at Kanpur, overnight.
Lucknow saw 46,97,121 domestic passengers in 2018-19 as per data released by AAI. For Kanpur, it was 1,34,366. However, in February 2021 – the month with the highest traffic post pandemic, Lucknow saw 2,55,958 domestic passengers while Kanpur saw 12,798. While the difference is huge, it shows the untapped potential of Kanpur.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) operates a civil enclave at Kanpur airport – which belongs to the Indian Air Force. The current terminal is small with no space for expansion. Same is the case with the apron. A new terminal building and apron are under construction. The airport is also shared by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) which has a large plant next to the airport.
SpiceJet has made a run from some markets when IndiGo has chased it down. Agartala, Coimbatore are just some of them. It’s diversification and capacity building strategy at Rajkot has not yielded results. While at Darbhanga, the airline is guarded because of RCS-UDAN routes, the same is not true for Kanpur.
The airline is likely to experiment by swapping B737s with Q400s to balance trip cost v/s cost per seat but in the long run, how strongly SpiceJet can guard Kanpur is anybody’s guess – especially after seeing how quickly its fort at Rajkot crumbled.
Yet, India is not a country which has direct selling and a lot of distribution is dependent on secondary channels like travel agencies and OTAs (Online Travel Agencies). On which side, these agencies will decide the bookings and future! IndiGo isn’t invincible but nobody else has the kind of cash chest which IndiGo has. SpiceJet operated an average of 158 flights per day in July, while IndiGo operated 874 flights per day – shows data released by DGCA. When 3 flights of SpiceJet are hit hard, that’s 2% of its total flights but when 3 flights of IndiGo are hit hard – it’s just 0.34% which shows what scale means!