IndiGo tries to make the most of peak season, adds flights to Leh and Srinagar for 41 days

On a day when daily domestic passenger numbers fell below the 3-lakh mark,  IndiGo – India’s largest carrier by fleet and domestic market share, announced additional seasonal flights to Srinagar and Leh. The additional flights between Delhi and Srinagar will operate from July 01, 2022 up to August 11, 2022. The additional flights between Delhi and Leh will begin on July 01.

Both these sectors are seeing excessive demand with most airlines operating on this route selling a considerable number of seats in the highest fare bracket and earning over 10% of revenue from these. For the month of May, IndiGo sold 17.9% of seats on Delhi – Leh sector in the highest fare bracket which was 15.1% in terms of revenue.

The airline launched flights to Leh in February 2021. The route was one of the few where the airline did not have capacity leadership. SpiceJet has taken opportunities to add flights as and when possible, to compete but with this increase, IndiGo will have second largest capacity on the sector with Go FIRST leading the pack.  Go FIRST is selling five daily flights, followed by four of IndiGo and three of SpiceJet. Air India and Vistara have one frequency each.  

Why Now?

The tourist season at Leh is delayed and not in sync with the typical summer holiday season of the country. The snow-clad passes open up for traffic towards the end of summer in peninsular India. Traffic to Leh picks up steam towards the end of May and the tourist season ends with the culmination of Ladakh festival sometime in September.

The last two seasons have been washed out due to the pandemic. While COVID cases continue to go up right now, there is no impending threat of another wave and “revenge tourism” is on the rise.

Fares for random dates in July show one-way fares which are above INR 14,000 for most days. For a block time of one hour and twenty-five minutes, these fares are salivating for the airlines in current times!

Likewise, Srinagar is one of the few sectors where IndiGo is not the capacity leader. In April, Go FIRST started basing an aircraft at Srinagar. Though Go FIRST has not been diligent in doing so, the airline has been on the forefront of adding capacity and connectivity. Interestingly, IndiGo launched flights to Srinagar in 2009-10 and there have been very few stations in IndiGo’s network which are online for so long but does not see the airline have capacity leadership!

Operational challenges

Leh is a defense airport with limited infrastructure for civilian flights. Two bays and an overcrowded terminal is what welcomes every flight and tourist to Leh. The Indian Air Force which operates the airport and Airports Authority of India (AAI) which manages the terminal, work very closely to ensure maximum flight movements. The timings of IndiGo flights and all other airlines change every 20-30 days.

The watch hours open at Sunrise and while the airport can be open longer, the high winds do not allow seamless movements restricting last departures to 1100 hours or so on most occasions.

IndiGo’s flights land in Leh at 0535 hours in July and at 0545 hours in August. The sunrise timing for Leh on July 01 is 0512, on July 15 is 0519, on Aug 01 is 0531, on Aug 15 is 0541 while end of August is 0551. IndiGo’s additional departure is not available for sale post mid-August.

Srinagar has severe crunch on the terminal capacity side. Srinagar is a defence airport with a civil enclave maintained and operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). While the runway movements are controlled by the Indian Air Force, the terminal handling is done by AAI. Airlines may look at adding additional flights but the current terminal capacity is full at all times which will hamper the airlines’ plan of adding capacity in the near term.

Flight timings

6E641 DEL0420 – 0535IXL Daily Jul 01 to Jul 30

6E6828 IXL0605 – 0735DEL Daily Jul 01 to Jul 30

6E641 DEL0420 – 0535IXL Daily Aug 01

6E6828 IXL0605 – 0735DEL Daily Aug 01

The flight is not available for sale post Aug 11, 2022

6E2077 DEL0520 – 0645SXR

6E2084 SXR0720 – 0850DEL

6E216 DEL2130 – 2245SXR

6E2089 SXR2315 – 0055 (+1)DEL

The above flights are daily from July 01, 2022 and stop operations on August 11, 2022.

What else?

The airline is making small tweaks to its network from Pantnagar. The airline had launched operations to Pantnagar on March 27, 2022. The airline has been operating Delhi – Pantnagar – Dehradun – Pantnagar – Delhi routing. On Monday and Friday, the airline will offer Pantnagar – Lucknow – Pantnagar flights. This will reduce the Pantnagar – Dehradun – Pantnagar flights from Daily to five times a week, without change in timings.       

Network Thoughts

This website had talked about “having a foot in the door” at Leh  with a long term view on slots and that seems to be coming true. Airlines in India aren’t fully thinking in terms of seasonal schedules. Vistara for example operates to Jodhpur only in Winter. Go FIRST operates non-stop Mumbai – Leh flights in summer and non-stop Mumbai – Port Blair flights in Winter.

IndiGo, being the largest carrier, can play around with its slots and capacity to make the most of these high fare periods, but as always there is a counter view and that is – will the added capacity lead to a drop in fares to such an extent that the per unit revenue does not make sense? A topic to ponder!

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