IndiGo is in talks with Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines for commercial partnerships, including interline and codeshares, as the carrier looks to expand its international footprint. An interline or codeshare is a commercial arrangement between airlines, which allow them to sell on each others’ network. Such a tie-up would be a first for IndiGo, which is the country’s largest airline.
The airline has 202 aircraft, a mix of Airbus A320s and ATR 72s and will be inducting its first Airbus A321neo later this month. The A321s have 222 seats and a longer range than the A320s.
IndiGo plans to use the A321s on new routes to Istanbul and start one-stop services to Europe via Central Asia. Commercial partnerships with airlines will help IndiGo increase seat occupancy and generate revenue from international routes. But such tie-ups will be a challenge, given its no-frills business model.
While overseas operations still account for less than 10 per cent of IndiGo’ total daily flights, it is nonetheless fast growing. The airline has launched new destinations – Male, Phuket, and Hong Kong - and introduced a service between Amritsar-Dubai and Vijayawada-Singapore. It has also expanded services to Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Kuwait. Currently, it serves 15 overseas destinations with 115 daily flights.
“For a low-cost airline, an interline and codeshare could help it get higher revenue per flight. The origin and destination traffic to Doha alone are not enough for growth. The incremental interline traffic will help tide over low seasons and give a huge fillip to their distribution, which is currently restricted to the website, select partners and general sales agents,” said aviation expert Ameya Joshi.
Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines have not been able to grow traffic from India as the country has not revised traffic rights with the two nations. An interline or a codeshare would bring in more passenger feed at their hubs in Doha and Istanbul.
“We have talks with a number of carriers as we are an attractive partner with our wide network in India. At this point, we cannot comment on individual cases,” IndiGo said in an email response to a query.
Recently in an interview with aviation website Flight Global, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said, “We are striking partnerships with Indian domestic partners. We are very close to codeshares with IndiGo and GoAir.”
Turkish Airlines did not respond to an email query on the topic.
Interline and codeshare pacts are common within full-service airlines. Pacts between low-cost and full-service airlines are fewer because of differences in business models. These pertain to products, services, and distribution.
IndiGo’s aircraft do not have business or first class. It does not have a frequent flyer programme or its own lounges - benefits which full-service airlines offer to their loyal customers. However, some industry experts believe that such a partnership can still be stitched between IndiGo and other foreign airlines.
“There will be challenges, but if IndiGo is able to offer cheaper alternative to destinations in Europe or the US via a hub like Doha, it will still attract price-conscious customers,” an industry expert remarked.