Spicejet said it will move to Terminal 2 at Mumbai effective October 1, while it will vacate Terminal 2 at New Delhi and move to Terminal 3 from September 5. The move could lead to several benefits for the airline.
Low-cost carrier (LCC) Spicejet, which has been one of the key beneficiaries of the slots vacated by Jet Airways, is consolidating its operations at Mumbai and New Delhi. The airline said will move to Terminal 2 at Mumbai effective October 1, while it will vacate Terminal 2 at New Delhi and move to Terminal 3 from September 5.
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The move could lead to several benefits for the airline. In March 2018, both Spicejet and IndiGo had to partially shift their operations to Terminal 2 (T2) at New Delhi. The Delhi airport launched an elaborate expansion plan which demanded the reduction in capacity at Terminal 1 (T1) because sections of the terminal would be closed. While GoAir shifted operations entirely to T2, IndiGo was locked in a legal battle with Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), which it ultimately lost. Spicejet, on the other hand, was holding on to the shifting, awaiting the results of the court battle. Both the airlines shifted operations based on city pairs.
However, things took a different turn in April this year when Jet Airways suspended operations and the slots were re-distributed. At Delhi, there was no scope to add flights at T1 due to ongoing expansion work and the airlines expanded at T2, putting immense pressure on the limited infrastructure at T2 – which is envisioned to be in operation for a limited time.
The situation was similar at Mumbai which has two terminals. T2 is devoted to all international flights of Indian and foreign carriers along with domestic flights of full-service carriers while T1 is for domestic flights of LCCs. Like Delhi, T1 at Mumbai is congested, creaking and has limited scope for expansion. This led to the new flights being approved from T2 for all airlines.
While the initial movement at Delhi had both IndiGo and Spicejet differentiate by destinations, additional flights post-April were differentiated only by flight numbers, making it a little complex for customers. For example, there were flights to Bengaluru from Mumbai T1 and Mumbai T2.
A split in operations leads to multiple challenges for airlines and pushes up the requirements for staff, ground handling equipment, hardware and at times, software licensing. No matter how big an airline is, there aren’t continuous push-backs and taxi-ins.
With operations split across terminals, there is an incremental need to have the tow bars, step ladders and other equipments because they cannot be shared by flights which are operating at different terminals.
Similarly, while an employee can check in for multiple flights when you have flights at different terminals, the staffing needs increase. As exactly the same number of flights is not being added, the staffing needs don’t double up but the proportion of staff increases due to scattered operations.
These inefficiencies creep up in the system and push up costs, which can be unforgiving in a ruthless environment like India.
The Shift And Its Benefits
The biggest benefit for the airline will be at Mumbai from where it has added considerable new flights taking the daily flight count to over 80, which is over double of what it was last year. Since the addition of flights has also been on international routes, the shift helps offer better connections to passengers from international to Domestic and vice versa, enabling the airline to offer an effective hub with seamless connections.
At Delhi, the move will help consolidate operations from three to two terminals. The new bays that DIAL is commissioning near T2 are compatible only for the A320s and not the B737-800s, which Spicejet operates largely.
With the shift, the airline could have a slight edge over IndiGo because the minimum connecting time (MCT) would come down for flights at Mumbai and Delhi compared with IndiGo.
The Bigger Game
In April this year, the airline signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Emirates for a reciprocal code-share agreement. International flights operate to Terminal 2 at Mumbai and Terminal 3 at New Delhi. Emirates operates five daily flights to Mumbai and four daily to New Delhi, which gives multiple options to connect for onward and return journeys for passengers across the Spicejet network, seamlessly.
With faster connecting times, the option becomes lucrative for travellers and hassle-free since inter-terminal transfer at both Mumbai and Delhi is cumbersome.
SpiceJet was once a close competitor of IndiGo. But while IndiGo kept scaling heights, Spicejet went through ownership changes and a near-death experience, which reduced its presence across the country. This could be the opportunity for the airline to make a comeback and such little things could make a big impact, especially when the next big game is being touted as international with codeshare and interline. Here again, Spicejet is lagging behind IndiGo – which already has an operational codeshare in effect.
Ameya Joshi is the founder of aviation analysis blog NetworkThoughts.
Read Ameya Joshi's columns here