One of the most discussed questions in the aviation circles over the past year or so has been IndiGo’s intention to London from India on a narrow-body aircraft. The airline is already holding slots at London Gatwick, and has made many a move to fly Delhi–London via Baku in Azarbaijan.
Slot filings at London airport show IndiGo has currently filed A321 equipment, the same as is being used on its Delhi–Istanbul flights. The problem with that move, from a passenger experience perspective, and perhaps why IndiGo has not already pulled this one off so far, is the airline’s lack of experience to differentiate its long-haul international flights from the short-haul ones.
As reported earlier,
, as shown by its flights to Istanbul, still have the airline serving you cold sandwiches for a meal. There is still no charging point or in-flight entertainment offered by the airline. Flying a narrow-body, which includes very long queues for the use of the small lavatories at the back of the plane. the long-haul experiences for IndiGo
While IndiGo is still pondering over how will it fly passengers to London, perhaps with a newer passenger experience, or perhaps on board a newer plane such as the A321XLR which will only be delivered a few years from now, it seems a middle-eastern airline has already stolen its thunder.
Jazeera Airways of Kuwait recently announced new flights between Kuwait and London, to be operated by their A320 aircraft. These flights will start operating October 27, 2019 onwards, and coupled with Jazeera Airways’ Indian network, seem to have some good connections for a low-cost experience to London.
Jazeera Airways, however, has improvised to ensure that passengers get a low-cost experience, which is still valid on a 7-hour long flight rather than cut and paste their domestic experience on to international long-haul flights, which is what IndiGo did. The airline already had a business-class experience on its aircraft, but on the new aircraft it brought in for the flights to London, it has also introduced a Premium Economy cabin.
While Kuwait Airport is nothing to write home about, the airline has built in reasonable connection times (60-90 minutes from Delhi on various days, three hours from Mumbai) amongst others. A traveller also gets to walk a bit on the transit, allowing him to stretch muscles rather than being in the same seat, not moving for hours.
Jazeera already has a streaming entertainment service on its aircraft, which one can access for free. And last but not least, the airline is offering the ability to pre-book a hot meal as well. In a way, the airline is more SpiceJet than IndiGo while still sticking to its low-cost roots.
In terms of fares, Jazeera has to still be watching its back and fine-tune fares. While a bare-basic one-way fare between Delhi and London was quoted at Rs 18,500 (ex-meals), Emirates has one-stop fares at Rs 22,000 for the same route with a better airport and a wide-body experience on the plane.
However, it is in Business Class that they are really being aggressive. If you don’t want all the bells and whistles of Business Class such as enhanced service and a bar on the plane, Jazeera Airways is offering non-lie-flat seats at Rs 60,000 one way from India to London, which is less than half of what Emirates and others are asking for the same route. Additionally, it comes with lounge access at all airports, meals inclusive and a liberal baggage allowance.
IndiGo clearly is not convinced of the need of a specific sub-fleet of aircraft for its long-haul operations right now, trying to keep the same aircraft to do domestic flights in India and long-haul flights as well. Question is will it wait to see how it works out for Jazeera and come to the conclusion of moving to different model for its long-haul flights (IFE, hot meals, more comfortable seats, Business Class or Premium Economy too, maybe?), or will it continue to dabble with its current strategy in the days forward?
Ajay Awtaney is a business travel & aviation journalist based in Mumbai, and the founder of the Indian frequent-traveller website Live From A Lounge ( www.livefromalounge.com .) Ajay flies over 200,000 miles every year, and tweets about The Business of Travel at @LiveFromALounge .