As Jet Airways collapsed, Spicejet moved in with aggression to not just fill in the void but also to capture its lost market. The airline had significantly reduced its operations leading up to that fateful day in December 2014, when the airline had all but shut down until a spate of changes led to its revival. It took the airline two and half years to reach the size and scale of its former self.
The airline has been in a tearing hurry to launch additional flights. It had to meet the regulator’s mandate to use the slots at the earliest or lose them.
So much so that Spicejet and Vistara – the two airlines which took aircraft which earlier operated for Jet Airways — started operating the aircraft with Jet Airways livery, making bare minimum changes to the exterior.
A hybrid aviation model
In the process, Spicejet also veered off track from its business model and started selling business class seats in the erstwhile Jet Airways aircraft as SpiceBiz. This change came within days of inducting the dual-class planes, adding Spicejet decals and initially selling the business class seats as SpiceMAX – the airline’s existing product where certain seats with additional legroom are sold at higher prices and come with meals and other benefits like priority services.
This helped the airline tide over the capacity shortfall, which was caused due to the grounding of B737 MAX8 aircraft Between March and June this year, the airline added roughly 100 daily flights on domestic route, and 11 additional daily flights on international ones.
Today, SpiceJet operates 12,986 domestic departures in March, an average of 418 flights a day. In June, this number rose to 15,208 at an average of 507 a day.
The 17 percent increase in departures gave a 24 percent spike in capacity by ASK (Available Seat Kilometers) and a 19 percent increase in passengers flown on domestic routes.
Over the last month or so, SpiceJet is using the relatively lean period to pull capacity out from the market and re-paint the aircraft, along with changing the configuration to a single class of service. SpiceJet’s website lists down its fleet and gives a fair idea on what has changed.
The airline, like many worldwide, expected that the B737 MAX8 would be operational much earlier, but hasn’t. With its induction process over and competition led by IndiGo and GoAir continuing to induct aircraft – coming fresh from the factory, Spicejet is looking to grow capacity, differently.
Second phase of capacity growth
Data for the past few months suggest that the airline has been operating about 5.6 flights per aircraft, which involves a mix of Q400s which typically do up to 8 flights a day and the B737s which fly anywhere between 4 and 8 flights daily.
Spicejet has converted 11 aircraft to mono class, while 20 more are to be converted. With every conversion, the airline is adding 18 seats in the B737-800 and 10 seats on the B737-700.
When all the aircraft are converted to all-economy configuration, at its average stage length of a little over 800 kilometers and 5.6 flights a day, the airline will add 2,529,890 ASKs per day, taking the domestic capacity up by 40 percent, if all of this is deployed on domestic routes.
The airline has plans of expanding on international routes. It has delayed flights to Hong Kong and Colombo, which looks primarily due to market conditions.
Spicejet is also inducting wet leased aircraft with one already in operation. This gives it the breather to send the ex-Jet Airways aircraft for re-configuration and a proper branding. The increase in capacity will be gradual but will give it a considerable edge against rivals who are increasing capacity by inducting aircraft.
The conversion to all economy product also helps the airline standardise its offering. While the airline could have played around with its aircraft rotations to ensure that the SpiceBiz product is restricted to the metros, which have demand for business class seats, the airline did not and had led to the dual class aircraft flying across the tier I, II and III cities, including certain RCS-UDAN routes! A single offering will change that!
Ameya Joshi is the founder of aviation analysis blog NetworkThoughts.
Read Ameya Joshi's columns here.
First Published: IST