IndiGo is looking at starting a flight to London and to other European cities through a single stop. The airline is in discussion with the airports in Tbilisi (Georgia) and Baku (Azerbaijan). The plan is to start the route by March.
The airline will operate the route with an Airbus A321 aircraft and will use the airport it lands at on the way as a technical stop, the term for a landing to refuel, with passengers not allowed to disembark. “The airline is also in discussion with Istanbul airport but it has high landing charges. So, Baku or Tbilisi is likely to be the airport through which the airline will operate to Europe,” said a source. IndiGo is in talks with Gatwick airport to finalise the timing.
Queries from Business Standard to Baku airport got no response. “IndiGo showed its interest in the Georgian aviation market back in the summer of 2018. The meetings with the Georgian side in August were organised by us,” went a statement from TAV Holdings, which operate the Tbilisi airport. The airline will compete against full-service airlines British Airways, Air India and Jet Airways on the route. The plan is to charge 30 per cent less. Travel sector executives say if IndiGo is able to do so, it could create a new class of flyers. “Such airlines always open up a totally new segment. Look at IndiGo in the domestic sector — they created a completely new segment of travellers. Similarly, the traditional Indian flyer to Europe might stick with the established carriers but in a country as large as India, this (IndiGo's idea) will have takers, who might be taking a tougher flight so that they can do some extra things on their holiday,” said Subhash Goyal, chairman of STIC Travel.
However, experts adds, it won’t be easy. “Having one stop to European cities will pit the airline against other full-service carriers. Second, a lot of revenue comes from cargo, which will be minimal in a narrow body (aircraft). Without an advantage in capacity deployment, it would be difficult for IndiGo to emulate what they did in domestic travel,” says Ameya Joshi, founder of airline blog Network Thoughts.
IndiGo had changed its aircraft order book, to upgrade 125 of the A320 Neos to the larger variant, the A321 Neo. The latter would take around four hours to reach Baku or Tbilisi; it would be another four hours to London.
IndiGo’s A321 Neos will come with 222 seats, in a single-class configuration. The aircraft will come with an additional fuel tank, increasing the range to six hours. "We think that is going to bring a lot of opportunities to international flights,” said Greg Taylor, recently announced as the next chief executive of IndiGo.