Hyderabad, Chennai direct flights launched

SpiceJet Ltd. will enhance connectivity to tier-II and -III cities and towns with the addition of the Bombardier Q-400 NextGen turboprop aircraft to its fleet, Neil Mills, chief executive officer of the budget airline, said here on Friday.

At a press conference on the occasion of the launch of direct flights between here and Hyderabad and Chennai, Mr. Mills said the Q-400 aircraft used for operating these new flights could accommodate 78 passengers and were widely accepted as the best short-haul plane globally.

“We have placed an order for 30 such aircraft (15 firm and 15 options) and have already taken delivery of the first five during early September. Delivery of the next two is expected by this month-end. The flyers from Thiruvananthapuram will get more options once the aircraft join the fleet,” he added.

Mr. Mills, who was earlier the chief financial officer of the Dubai government's Fly Dubai and EasyJet of the U.K., said SpiceJet had applied for approval to fly to 10 international destinations and clearances had been granted for five routes in the past two weeks.

In the first phase of the Q-400 operations, the airline would connect Hyderabad to popular tier-II and -III destinations — Aurangabad, Bhopal, Goa, Indore, Madurai, Mangalore, Nagpur, Pune, Rajahmundry, Tirupati, Thiruvananthpauram, and Vijayawada.

Terming the daily services to Chennai and Hyderabad a “big move” in the “right direction” because of the traffic volumes involved in the hitherto poorly connected corridors, Mr. Mills said the airline alone operated the new Bombardier aircraft in the tier-II and -III sectors.

He said the aircraft offered a whole new experience to travellers with a quieter cabin using noise-suppressing technology, comfortable seats, and space as in a wide-bodied aircraft.

The first Hyderabad-Thiruvananthapuram flight landed at the international airport here at 8.55 a.m. on Thursday.

Flight SG1011 will depart daily from Hyderabad at 6.35 a.m. to reach Thiruvananthapuram at 9.05 a.m. In the return direction, SG1012 will depart from here every day at 8.45 p.m. to reach Hyderabad at 11.15 p.m.

SG1262 flight will depart from Chennai at 6.45 p.m. and land here Thiruvananthapuram at 8.20 p.m. on all days. SG1261, in the return direction, will depart from here at 9.25 a.m. to reach Chennai at 11 a.m.

SpiceJet also commenced the Kochi-Chennai service on Thursday and announced a second flight on this route from November 11. Mr. Mills said a third base of the airline for Q-400 operations after Hyderabad and Chennai would be set up in February next year.

He said a shake-up in the budget airline model might be a possibility that the industry would be living with, but how real it could turn out to be or when was one of perception. He found no scope yet for a wholesale consolidation in the sector, leading to mergers and acquisitions.

“No one player is big enough to propose an M&A,” he said while adding that “SpiceJet could claim for itself a sound financial position.”

Asked about the availability of pilots in the country for the Q-400 aircraft, Mr. Mills said there was a lack of trained pilots and the airline had gone for a 50:50 combination in the cockpit for expats and Indian nationals. The captain would be an expat to start with and the co-pilots would be those trained on the ATR aircraft.

He said a long-range aircraft was not an option the airline, which had a 14 per cent market share, was looking at now. He also ruled out a dedicated cargo service. Instead, the airline would focus on generating value out of its current fleet of Boeings and Bombardiers.