Analysis of SpiceJet’s Initial Bombardier Q400 Operation and New Hub at Hyderabad

Low cost carrier SpiceJet over the weekend revealed its initial Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 operations, with 225 weekly flights operating on 17 distinct city pairs (see end of post for the full operation). The new flights will all commence between September 21st and October 4th. Operations will be made possible by the delivery of 5 brand-new Q400s from Bombardier by mid-September.

SpiceJet Bombadier Q400 Dash 8

SpiceJet ordered 15 Q400s with 15 purchase options back in November of 2010. The aircraft will be configured with 78 economy class seats, and used by SpiceJet to serve Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.

As expected, the first 5 aircraft will be primarily used to create a hub at Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport. 13 of the 17 initial city pairs to be served by the Q400 are from Hyderabad, and 11 represent entirely new city pairs for Hyderabad. RGIA will see almost 14 new flights per day from SpiceJet, which currently operates 18 flights per day at the airport; bringing the total hub to 32 flights.

The second hub for SpiceJet is still planned to be Bangalore, however, as this blog opined in March, many feel that Bangalore would have been a better first hub than Hyderabad. While Hyderabad is admittedly less competitive than Bangalore, the Bangalore market is more than 1 and a half times the size of the Hyderabad market (11.24 million passengers vs. 7.4 million passengers). Furthermore, many of the Tier 2 routes planned in Hyderabad face competition from some combination of Jet Airways and Kingfisher, not that different from the situation on Tier 2 routes in Bangalore. These carriers are using their position as the sole provider(s) of such routes to charge passengers in Bangalore extremely high fares.

Hyderabad is a more diverse (in terms of routes served) base for Jet Airways than for Kingfisher. The situation is reversed in Bangalore. Kingfisher is in dire financial straits, and its service reputation has been slipping. This gives SpiceJet a chance to come into the Bangalore market and steal away many passengers with low fares. But by late 2011/early 2012, it is possible that Kingfisher will have been injected with capital (perhaps from its new OneWorld partners?), and/or re-structured- which would allow it to compete far more vigorously with SpiceJet. In Hyderabad, SpiceJet will have to contend with a still competitive and fiscally sound Jet Airways, not the most appetizing of battles.

Regardless of the choice of the Hyderabad hub over Bangalore, SpiceJet has managed to build both a very strong Q400 operation, and a well designed hub in Hyderabad. The exact operation of the Q400s can be found at the end of the post, and the full hub operation in Hyderabad is shown below.

Origin Destination Time
Pune 0015
Mumbai 0550
Nagpur 0625
Tirupati 0640
Delhi 0645
Mumbai 0650
Bangalore 0655
Vijaywada 0710
Visakhapatnam 0720
Ahmedabad 0805
Delhi 0810
Chennai 0835
Coimbatore 0840
Chennai 0845
Nagpur 0915
Vijaywada 0915
Ahmedabad 0915
Tirupati 0940
Delhi 0950
Vizag 0955
Rajahmundry 1000
Visakhapatnam 1005
Cochin 1020
Delhi 1035
Bangalore 1110
Kolkata 1140
Coimbatore 1150
Delhi 1220
Vizag 1225
Rajahmundry 1230
Goa 1230
Mangalore 1300
Vizag 1315
Cochin 1400
Tirupati 1420
Delhi 1435
Tirupati 1500
Aurangabad 1540
Goa 1550
Vijaywada 1610
Mangalore 1640
Ahmedabad 1650
Vizag 1655
Bhopal 1700
Indore 1700
Delhi 1710
Chennai 1720
Delhi 1730
Coimbatore 1740
Visakhapatnam 1800
Vijaywada 1820
Aurangabad 1835
Madurai 1840
Kolkata 1945
Bangalore 2015
Visakhapatnam 2045
Coimbatore 2050
Pune 2055
Delhi 2120
Mumbai 2130
Delhi 2150
Bhopal 2205
Indore 2205
Bangalore 2220
Mumbai 2240
Madurai 2300

The first column represents the origin for arrivals in Hyderabad; the second column represents the destination for departures from Hyderabad. The time column varies between arrivals and departures, depending on which one is blank.

As is shown above, SpiceJet has built a very strong operation in Hyderabad. The new destinations served by the Q400 are a mix of Andhra and other Southern points, as well as major Tier 2 industrial cities in the North with strong business demand.

The hub is structured as a rolling, or de-peaked hub; with flight arriving and departing throughout the day. This contrasts with banked hubs, where flights are bunched together in “banks”, creating peaks and troughs in terms of operations at various points throughout the day.

The usage of a rolling hub allows SpiceJet to maximize aircraft utilization, because there is no necessity to keep aircraft on the ground to build towards a flight bank. While this approach can hurt the connection potential, Hyderabad’s central location allows it to offset longer wait times at the hub with shorter flight times; keeping the overall connection potential in parity with SpiceJet’s other operations in Mumbai and/or Bangalore.

And while connections may be hurt somewhat by the rolling nature of the hub, SpiceJet has smartly maximized its connectivity in Hyderabad through good scheduling. Certain early-morning departures have no flights to feed into them, while late-night arrivals often do not connect to any flights till the morning. However, SpiceJet has wisely scheduled many of its more connection-dependent departures and arrivals during the daytime, when connections are possible. Departures in the early morning or late night time-frame are mostly limited to major Southern points (such as Tirupathi) with strong origin and destination (O&D demand), or major Indian cities (e.g. Delhi, Mumbai, etc.).

While Hyderabad is the primary base of Q400 operations, there are a couple of tag-on flights operated (Indore-Bhopal, Tirupathi-Vizag). Additionally, Bangalore does get one daily flight to Vizag, which is facilitated by a flight between Hyderabad and Bangalore. This is smart, as it allows the carrier to build up a support infrastructure for the Q400 in Bangalore, well before hub operations start there.

The Q400 operation is designed quite optimally. The majority of slack in the schedule occurs on Tuesdays, which are traditionally periods of weak demand. By not scheduling as many flights on Tuesday, SpiceJet can use that time to perform maintenance on the aircraft, without affecting operations. However, the one issue with SpiceJet’s Q400 schedule is that it regularly calls for aircraft turn-around times of 15-20 minutes. While that is (barely) doable at secondary airports such as Madurai and Tirupathi, , such turn times are un-realistic at major airports like Bangalore and Hyderabad, where bottlenecks are common. This could end up hurting the on-time performance of SpiceJet as a whole, as one delayed flight causes multiple additional delays in such a small operation.

Their choice of hub notwithstanding, SpiceJet has built a very smart Q400 operation and a strong new hub in Hyderabad, which becomes their second major connecting complex after the home-base at Delhi. The Q400 is one of the most efficient and passenger friendly regional aircraft available, and it should serve SpiceJet with distinction.

What are your thoughts on the new Hyderabad hub or the Q400 operation? Let us know in the comments below.

-Vinay Bhaskara
Twitter: @TheABVinay

SpiceJet Q400 Operation

Origin Destination Depart Arrive Days
Hyderabad Aurangabad 1540 1700 Daily
Hyderabad Bangalore 0655 0820 Daily
Vizag Bangalore 1840 2040 Daily
Hyderabad Bhopal 1700 1850 246
Indore Bhopal 1910 1950 1357
Hyderabad Goa 1230 1400 Daily
Aurangabad Hyderabad 1720 1835 Daily
Bangalore Hyderabad 2100 2220 Daily
Bhopal Hyderabad 2010 2205 1357
Goa Hyderabad 1420 1550 Daily
Indore Hyderabad 2015 2205 246
Madurai Hyderabad 2100 2300 Daily
Mangalore Hyderabad 1500 1640 Daily
Nagpur Hyderabad 0800 0915 Daily
Pune Hyderabad 2245 0015 Daily
Rajahmundry Hyderabad 1125 1230 Daily
Tirupati Hyderabad 0820 0940 Daily
Tirupati Hyderabad 1255 1420 Except Tues.
Vijaywada Hyderabad 1725 1820 Daily
Vijaywada Hyderabad 0820 0915 Daily
Vizag Hyderabad 1100 1225 Tues.
Vizag Hyderabad 1150 1315 Except Tues.
Bhopal Indore 1910 1955 246
Hyderabad Indore 1700 1850 1357
Hyderabad Madurai 1840 2040 Daily
Hyderabad Mangalore 1300 1440 Daily
Hyderabad Nagpur 0625 0740 Daily
Hyderabad Pune 2055 2230 Daily
Hyderabad Rajahmundry 1000 1105 Daily
Hyderabad Tirupati 0640 0800 Daily
Hyderabad Tirupati 1500 1625 Except Tues.
Vizag Tirupati 1100 1235 Except Tues.
Hyderabad Vijaywada 1610 1705 Daily
Hyderabad Vijaywada 0710 0800 Daily
Bangalore Vizag 0850 1040 Daily
Hyderabad Vizag 1655 1820 Only on Tues.
Hyderabad Vizag 0955 1135 Except Tues.
Tirupati Vizag 1645 1820 Except Tues.

Image Credit: Bombardier, SpiceJet

About Vinay Bhaskara

Check Also

In new strategy Etihad invests in Darwin Airlines, re-brands it Etihad Regional

by Devesh Agarwal Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, today announced …