Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bombardier Benefits As SpiceJet Targets Fast-Growing Regional Routes

Aviation Week & Space Technology Nov 15 , 2010 , p. 17

An agreement to purchase 15 Bombardier Q400 turboprops has established SpiceJet as the most aggressive among India’s budget carriers in pursuit of the country’s fast-growing regional routes.

Indian aviation has been on a growth spurt for the past decade, but of the country’s estimated 400 commercial transports in service, 261 are single-aisle jets seating 100 or more passengers. Only 20 are regional aircraft of fewer than 90 passengers, so acquiring 15 of the 78-passenger Q400s has drawn attention. Deliveries are to start in the second quarter of 2011 and be completed in 12 months. Bombardier opened an office in Mumbai earlier this year.

SpiceJet currently operates 22 aircraft, all Boeing 737-800/900ERs. During President Barack Obama’s state visit to India last week, Boeing revealed that 30 737-800s (shown) listed as “unannounced” on its website were from SpiceJet. The carrier’s goal is to double its fleet by the end of 2013.

Boeing sees the Q400s not as competitors but as complementing its own prospects for sales. “The aircraft {turboprops} will be operating at airports where our planes cannot go,” says Boeing President-India Dinesh Keskar. “This will help us generate more orders. Once traffic on the hub-and-spoke sectors increases and airports get longer runways, there will be a need for upgrades from the Q400s to 737-800s.”

Around 250 low- to medium-density routes go unused in India because they are not profitable with single-aisle jets. Another 133 routes have less than one frequency a day, according to a market study by Embraer. SpiceJet Chief Commercial Officer Sam Sridharan says cities outside India’s major metropolitan areas are ripe for frequency levels that smaller aircraft can offer. “With regional aircraft we can offer more frequencies,” he says. “We average 13 flights per week on every route we [currently] fly.”

Some 50-60 airports in India have short runways that will support Q400 point-to-point operations, Sridharan says.

India’s domestic traffic grew at 12% year on year during the third quarter. Budget carriers expanded their share of that market by 10 points to 71%. SpiceJet’s passenger growth was 16%.

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