Go FIRST (erstwhile Go Air) will launch three new stations on November 11, 2021. The airline will launch Amritsar, Dehradun and Surat. The airline will also return to Aizawl starting the same day. This takes the domestic stations launched by the airline since the pandemic to five, having launched Coimbatore and Mangalore in Summer Schedule.
The airline had intended to start a couple of additional stations in the last season but was postponed indefinitely. These included Raipur and Shirdi, which never saw the light of the day. After a very long time, the airline is entering the markets with all guns blazing – a rarity for Go First.
The strongest of the four seems to be Amritsar. The airline is starting double daily flights between Mumbai and Amritsar and triple daily between Delhi and Amritsar. On the Mumbai – Amritsar sector, the airline will be capacity leader while on the Delhi – Amritsar sector, it will match frequencies by IndiGo. Go FIRST will also have a triple daily product with early morning departure and late evening arrival ex-Delhi as well as ex-Amritsar. If these two aren’t enough, the airline will break the monopoly of IndiGo on the Amritsar – Srinagar sector.
Amritsar has high tourism potential as tourists from across the world visit the Golden Temple at Amritsar. Amritsar is a large city and economic hub of the state and has economic, historical, commercial, tourism and military significance which attracts traffic. The Mumbai – Amritsar route has the potential to be another Mumbai – Chandigarh route, which has seen incremental frequency increases over a period of time.
A look at online portals for a schedule for a Monday and Friday lists out the flights as below and shows how Go FIRST is well placed. Ironically, when IndiGo launched services to Amritsar, they had this very morning departure slot from Delhi. This flight would more often than not be cancelled in the initial days and later saw a change in timing!
The airline will operate double daily flights to Dehradun from Delhi and a daily flight from Mumbai. The Delhi departures are at 11:30 and 13:35 while the departures from Dehradun for Delhi are at 12:45 and 15:00. The Mumbai Dehradun flight departs Mumbai at 13:50 hours while the return flight departs Dehradun at 16:35 hours.
Jolly Grant Airport at Dehradun is the gateway to Uttarakhand and has seen a new terminal take shape in recent times. The airport which was restricted to turboprop operations saw major expansion from 2007, so as to accommodate A320/B737 aircraft enabling connectivity to airports beyond Delhi.
Go FIRST will be the smallest player in the Delhi – Dehradun market where IndiGo has five frequencies while SpiceJet and Air India have three each. With the airline planning a shift to the ULCC model, one wonders if Dehradun is part of that strategy to look for non-business destinations.
Interestingly, Vistara which had a large presence at Dehradun and was to resume the services, has quietly pulled out of the sector.
After evaluating Surat for a long time, the airline is finally taking the plunge. Surat is tricky, to say the least! There was a time when Air India wanted Suratis to have a bank guarantee which can be en-cashed if the loads dropped! The SpiceJet – Air India duopoly was broken when AirAsia India entered the market, closely followed by IndiGo! Of the many markets which AirAsia India vacated, Surat is one of them and this has also seen a remarkable downsizing by SpiceJet!
But entering Surat from Delhi with double daily flights, Go FIRST is going head-on with IndiGo. Will it regret this or win the battle? IndiGo is dominant but not invincible and Surat is a complex market driven by volumes!
The airline will be the only operator to have daily flights between Kolkata and Surat and will be a duopoly with IndiGo on the Bengaluru – Surat sector.
The airline also returns to Aizawl – a historic station for the airline. It will launch thrice a week services and operate Delhi – Aizawl – Guwahati – Delhi and four times a week Kolkata – Guwahati – Aizawl – Kolkata.
The airport was built in the 1990s and the Lengpui airport is the only airport in the state of Mizoram. The airline will add some good Cat 2 and Cat 2A ASKMs needed to satisfy the Route Dispersal Guidelines.
Occupying the space vacated by SpiceJet ?
SpiceJet – which has shrunk the most in this season and some of these routes and stations were a mainstay for SpiceJet in previous schedules. Go FIRST is slated to raise funds soon and the IPO is expected in the next couple of weeks. With capacity caps relaxed, the airline has to quickly start increasing its presence and look to build forts which are difficult to breach for competition.
Having IndiGo as a competition is a reality and in this case, it looks like Go FIRST is trying to do an IndiGo – entering markets which are stable and tested with the initial pain of growing the market being taken by some other player.
After a long time, the airline is going all out with the launch. The Vice Chairman of the airline has repeatedly hinted at the airline moving away from business routes to leisure ones. However, there is a thin line these days between a business route and a leisure route.
Elections lead to a surge in traffic and Punjab and Uttarakhand are headed for elections early next year. This would be a good period for the airline to take a slice of the pie. This also is a good time for new route launches since the fares are capped and it prevents the competition from starting a fare war to hit the new player stabilize.