Routes Analysis – India Edition: Air India, IndiGo, Nepal Airlines, Ethiopian

Over the last week, foreign and Indian carriers alike have announced several interesting pieces of news around the Indian domestic and international networks.


India’s largest low cost carrier (LCC), IndiGo, will be adding one additional daily flight on each of Mumbai-Delhi and Mumbai-Hyderabad. The LCC will now operate 12 daily flights (except on Sundays) between Mumbai and Delhi, as well as 5 daily flights Mumbai-Hyderabad. The new flights are scheduled as follow:

6E171 DEL-BOM — 0525 – 0725 — 320 — Daily x7
6E188 BOM-DEL — 0840 – 1045 — 320 — Daily x7

6E231 HYD-BOM — 1920 – 2045 — 320 — Daily
6E234 BOM-HYD — 2120 – 2235 — 320 — Daily

In spite of the heavy losses sustained by Indian carriers on most of these Metro routes, Indian carriers continue to saturate the market with heavy frequencies. Part of it is certainly the loss of Kingfisher, which has sent fares spiraling upwards and left what some would call a void in the market for the other Indian airlines to fill. Another part of it is surely that IndiGo wishes to firm up its Mumbai operation in an effort to increase its attractiveness to business travelers and frequent flyers (especially important as it attempts to grow its international operations).

Still I’m not sure that I like the moves. Higher fares, despite the adverse effects on consumers, are exactly what the Indian airline industry needs (I’ll cover this in a later post). Looking around the world, the only airlines that have sustained high profit margins since the Global Financial Crisis are those that practice capacity discipline (especially the US based “legacy” carriers). For IndiGo, are marginal benefits of an additional inter-Metro flight truly worth losing the capacity discipline which has been so beneficial for the bottom line at Indian carriers in recent months?

Air India

From December 5th, Air India will be restarting service between Thiruvananthapuram and Riyadh twice weekly on Boeing 747-400 equipment. Previously, Air India operated on the route with onestop service through multiple intermediate points for several years, before it was slotted for cancellation in March 2013. The schedule for the route is as follows:

AI929 TRV-RUH — 1440 – 1645 — 744 — 35
AI928 RUH-TRV — 0600 – 1310 — 744 — 35

The service is paired with new 2 weekly 747-400 service on Mumbai-Riyadh, bringing service on that sector up to daily.

AI921 BOM-RUH — 0250 – 0445 — 744 — 35
AI920 RUH-BOM — 1800 – 0030+1 — 744 — 35

Both of these new flights represent a reversal of the recent trend in the India-Middle East market, which has been contraction at all costs. From a practical perspective, this also partially solves the problem of what to do with the 747-400s, though the most sane option (scrapping, retiring, or selling them) is still on the table.

Meanwhile, Air India just sent out the following email to its Flying Returns members:

The winter season is here, Air India has introduced its schedule for this season with a host of improvements for your convenience. The highlights of the schedule are:

1) New Daily Flights

•Chennai – Pune – Chennai
•Ahmedabad – London – Ahmedabad
•Delhi – Dhaka – Delhi (effective 3rd December)
•Delhi – London – Delhi (2nd daily flight eff. 25th Nov.)
•Hyderabad – Varanasi
•Goa – Srinagar
•Delhi – Mangalore
•Mumbai – Srinagar
•Raipur – Visakhapatnam

2) Non-Stop flights now available on eff. 11th Nov.

•Mumbai – Bhopal
•Mumbai – Jodhpur
•Delhi – Indore
•Delhi – Udaipur

3) Dreamliner B-787 flights on
•Delhi – Frankfurt – Delhi
•Delhi – Dubai – Delhi

Some notes on individual routes above:

  • Pune has experienced a bit of a Renaissance with a recent slot auction bringing a nice set of new daily flights to the Industrial hub in central India … Good for them
  • Ahmedabad – London – Ahmedabad is via Delhi – this sort of routing wasn’t very successful the first time Air India tried it – with any sort of rational head at Air India, this should go away pretty soon. 
  • Delhi-London 2nd daily flight makes little sense – the last time they dropped it, part of the rationale was that the competition on the sector was too fierce. That is still the case. You still have Jet and a revitalized British Airways/IAG to contend with – Air India should really just sell the slot.
  • I’m not sure that the 787 will fly either of those routes any time soon. Looking over in the US, the 787 inaguration has not gone smoothly with United Airlines, and I wonder if Air India has had some similar struggles. Initial dispatch reliability for the domestic 787 flights isn’t so great. 


SpiceJet continues to refine its burgeoning Q400 regional operations. First, they are adding Chennai-Bangalore-Belgaum services with schedules as follow:

SG3301 MAA-BLR-IXG — 0615 – 0705 — 0740 – 0830 — Q400 — Daily
SG3302 IXG-BLR — 0850 – 0935 — 0850 – 0935 — Q400 — Daily

SpiceJet continues to grow its Q400 operations. With the shutdown of Kingfisher, there exist several small and medium markets in India where there is potential for SpiceJet to undercut the monopolies of either Jet Airways or Air India (Alliance Air). Additionally, SpiceJet’s Mangalore operations are undergoing a restructuring. The current 737 flight between Bangalore-Mangalore is being terminated, and instead the current Chennai-Mangalore Q400 flight is being re-routed as a one-stop through Bangalore. This is a smart utilization of the Q400 to help prop up fares on a route that is too short to profitably fill a 737. The new schedules are as follow:

SG3231 MAA-BLR-IXE — 1240-1335 — 1400 – 1445 — Q400 — Daily
SG3232 IXE-BLR-MAA — 1025-1110 — 1130 – 1220 — Q400 — Daily

Royal Nepal Airlines

Royal Nepal Airlines, the Kathmandu based flag carrier, has signalled that it wishes to resume service to Delhi, and add service to Patna and Gaya. Currently the carrier operates a mixed fleet of 757s and Twin Otters, but presumably either A320s or the newly ordered Xian MA-60s (from China, these aircraft are not yet certified to operate from India).

British Airways

OneWorld carrier British Airways plans to increase its service to Chennai up to 6 flights per week up from the current level of 5 flights per week according to sources- the highest level that the service has been at in the past few years. Considering some of the drawdown of Indian flights by British Airways in the past year, its nice to see them adding some service back to India.

Ethiopian Airlines

Ethiopian Airlines has moved forward plans to place the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner onto the daily Addis Ababa – Mumbai service. Initally, service was planned to begin on 25th November. Then, the plan was briefly cancelled, before it was moved up this week to a November 11th start up. The schedule for the flights is as follows:

ET610 ADD-BOM — 2120 – 0450+1 — 788 — Daily
ET611 BOM-ADD — 0540 – 0800 — 788 — Daily

Interestingly, Ethiopian’s 787 integration has gone very smoothly  while United and Air India have struggled. India is a strong part of their growth plan and one can expect to see more green and white 787s plying Indian skies in the near future given the centrality of the 787 to their future fleet growth.

About Vinay Bhaskara

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