Nine months on, SpiceJet loves its Bombardier Q400 aircraft

Just a little over nine months ago, Indian low fare carrier SpiceJet took delivery of its first Bombardier Q400 turbo-prop on August 26th last year, and commenced commercial flights with the aircraft on September 21st.

In a recent internal publication, aircraft manufacturer Bombardier, claimed a 99.8% despatch reliability for the Q400 at SpiceJet, an enviable number considering the high and hot conditions the aircraft operates in.

Bombardier and SpiceJet officials at Toronto see off the carrier’s first Q400, VT-SUA, on its ferry flight to India

In a follow-up, we asked the airline to comment about their experience with the Q400. The airline was unwilling to go on the record, citing commercial confidentiality, but we did obtain some off the record answers, from both administrators and pilots at the airline, who are, on the whole, happy with the aircraft.

Q. How satisfied is SpiceJet with the Q400? Are there any open issues which SpiceJet feels Bombardier must solve on priority?
A. The airline is pretty much satisfied. There are no open issues from the commercial side, but one or two very small issues on the technical side which are being resolved. Everyone from pilots to administrators to commercial staff, raved about the aircraft saying Its a great aircraft and suited for Indian conditions

Q. What were the top reasons for SpiceJet to select the Q400?
A. Firstly why did SpiceJet even choose a turbo-prop? It was to gain increased access to Tier II and Tier III markets which have airports with short runways not capable of handling jets, and to benefit from lower cost of operations to dictate lower fares. [Editor’s note: Aircraft less than 80 seats are given fuel at only 4% tax and very low, almost free, landing and parking fees at airports.]

Further more the Q400 is significantly faster than its competitor the ATR-72-500 which allows us to operate more flights each day.

The 78 seats also allows for economies of scale while the noise and vibration reduction features of the aircraft provides our passengers more comfort, and the aircraft is a rugged machine which has proven reliability.

With great pride, a SpiceJet Q400 captain told us, how he takes off from Bangalore, ten minutes after a competitor’s flight, operated by an ATR72, out-climbs and over-takes the ATR, and lands at Hyderabad more than ten minutes ahead of his competitor.

Q. SpiceJet has committed for 15 Q400s and has another 15 on option. How likely is SpiceJet (a) to exercise the 15 options (b) order / take options on additional Q400s?
A. SpiceJet has seven Q400s in its fleet, and will be adding an aircraft a month. We cannot predict beyond the ordered 15 aircraft at this point. We will see the success of these markets and new initiatives first, before committing any further. As with any other airline options were placed to secure slots and pricing.

Q. What does SpiceJet see as the market potential for turbo-prop aircraft?
We feel there is a market out there for about 40~50 aircraft in the 60~80 seater segment.

Q. Does the Q400 benefit from the lower airport charges scheme at Indian airports? Can SpiceJet share some financial comparisons on highlighting these benefits on the Q400 vs. the Boeing 737.
For sure it does, but we cannot disclose these financials which are company confidential.

Q. Bombardier is discussing a bigger Q400 called the Q400X. What are SpiceJet’s thoughts on this? 
A. The Indian market is for the 60~80 seater aircraft. The Q400X is 100+. This aircraft may also require longer runways, which are not available in most smaller cities in India, [short runways is why SpiceJet chose the Q400 for in the first place]. We don’t see a demand for this aircraft in our near to medium term plans.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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