Vistara – the TATA – SIA Joint Venture, will launch flights to Coimbatore, gradually starting May 20. Coimbatore will be the 31st destination for the airline. The airline will operate daily flights to the city from Delhi and Mumbai effective 20 May and 27 May 2022 respectively; and double daily connectivity from Bengaluru starting 03 June 2022. The destination seems to be a smart choice for the airline since Delhi and Bengaluru become duopoly from an IndiGo monopoly right now and the airline is entering with significant capacity to take on the market leader. The airline has chosen to connect Coimbatore with three destinations – which makes it enter the city on a strong footing.
Coimbatore is an important commercial and industrial center in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The second largest city in the state is also the 16th largest urban conglomerate in the country. In addition to the commercial importance, the city acts as a gateway to the hill station of Ooty and is the nearest airport for industrial townships of Tiruppur in Tamil Nadu and Palakkad in neighbouring Kerala.
Who is dominating Coimbatore?
The city, like most other cities, is dominated by IndiGo. The market leader connects Coimbatore to Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad and Tirupati. Air India operates to Chennai, having pulled out of the Mumbai – Coimbatore sector. Go First also flies to Coimbatore from Mumbai. The airline had launched operations to Coimbatore from Bengaluru and Chennai as well, but have since been scaled down to operate only from Mumbai, making it the weak link in this picture with Vistara’s entry.
IndiGo has nurtured the Coimbatore market and had one of its first longer flights deployed to this market when it had launched Delhi – Coimbatore non-stops. For IndiGo, there has been no looking back since then as it converted many one-stops to non-stops since then and increased the frequency on Delhi – Coimbatore to double daily.
In a very surprising schedule, SpiceJet operates once a week to Coimbatore from Bengaluru. The airline has no other flight to Coimbatore on any other days or from any other places! The Saturday only flight operated last Saturday, unlike the two previous ones!
On the international side, Air Arabia, Scoot and Sri Lankan have been operating to Coimbatore offering services to Sharjah, Singapore and Colombo respectively. The schedule is patchy currently as International services are still coming back to pre-COVID times.
The airport has no constraints on the runway capacity side but the terminal is congested for a few hours of the day. There still remains a lot of scope to expand services as it is not as congested as many other airports in the country. On the international side, FY22 saw the airport clock an impressive 146% growth over the previous year but was just 27% of pre-COVID times. On the domestic front, FY22 saw 48% more passengers than the previous year but the recovery is still far since these numbers are just 46% of pre-COVID numbers which is lower than the country’s average recovery in passenger footfalls. The air traffic movements are also hovering around half of pre-COVID times.
Vistara’s Coimbatore foray
The flights from Bengaluru will be operated by all economy A320 aircraft, seven of which are part of Vistara’s fleet while the Delhi- Coimbatore and Mumbai – Coimbatore flights will have three-class offerings. Air India has been an operator on the Mumbai – Coimbatore sector and though Air India has approvals for the flights, the airline has not been operating this summer.
What is surprising is that rivals have not upped the game, just yet. In the past, whenever IndiGo has seen rivals enter its turf, it has added frequencies. Recently this involved adding capacity/frequency to Amritsar when Go FIRST entered the market. There has not been any change in the market since the time Vistara announced the flights to Coimbatore.
The Chennai – Coimbatore sector is the densest from Coimbatore and Vistara has chosen to stay away from it. This could partially be due to the fact that IndiGo operates six daily services on this route. The Delhi – Coimbatore sector neither connects with the international wide body flights of Vistara nor with most other carriers. In addition, the mid day flight is not business friendly. While the capacity addition on the Mumbai – Coimbatore sector is moderate, the Bengaluru – Coimbatore sector will see a capacity increase of 66% overnight, which will be challenging as it takes time to absorb as much capacity. Yet the smaller sector would not hurt much as compared to say Delhi which if it does not do well will be a huge drain in the current cost environment.