The long-haul low-cost market seems like it is about to get a new entrant, as SpiceJet announced that it has gained the designation from the local aviation authorities to fly to both the United Kingdom and the United States. Yet the announcement raises a few questions, as the airline has no wide-body aircraft to fly the routes, nor it has any on order.

In addition, SpiceJet plans to operate its first long-haul flight to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) in the Netherlands on August 1, 2020, in order to repatriate stranded Indian citizens from the European country and bring them back to India. According to reports by local media, the airline is planning to use the Airbus A330neo to operate the flights.

The charter flights would be the first long-haul flights operated by the low-cost carrier, which mainly focuses on short-haul domestic and medium-haul international flights to United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand. While there are 46 Airbus A330-900neo aircraft delivered, according to the manufacturer’s latest orders and deliveries filing, the Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, and Insurance (ACMI) company Hi Fly has one A330neo (registered CS-TKY) that has not had any movement over the past few days, potentially indicating it could be the aircraft that SpiceJet would lease.

AeroTime News approached Hi Fly and SpiceJet for comment.

No route indications

The Indian low-cost carrier has not indicated which routes it plans to operate in the United Kingdom or the United States. However, data from Airport Coordination Limited (ACL), a slot coordinator for airports all across the globe, indicates that SpiceJet applied to acquire slots in London’s Heathrow (LHR) and Gatwick (LGW) for the winter 2020 season, which starts on October 25, 2020.

Its request for 42 slot pairs at LHR was denied, the slot coordinator allocated 18 slots at LGW. The filing also further indicates that the two routes the airline plans to operate are to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (BOM) and Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL).

In 2019, SpiceJet applied to operate long-haul routes to Manchester Airport (MAN) and London’s two main airports, Heathrow and Gatwick. The low-cost carrier planned to use the A330ceo, ACL data showed.

While on one hand the conditions to start exploring new horizons might be perfect, as second-hand or leased aircraft are available at favorable rates, on the other hand, operating scheduled services comes with questionable success rates. After all, the only Indian airline to fly long-haul is Air India, which itself is riddled with massive debt. Two other airlines, namely Kingfisher and Jet Airways, capitulated. SpiceJet would be competing with the aforementioned Air India and British Airways on routes to/from the United Kingdom. On the transpacific side of the ocean, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines operated scheduled services prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.

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The Indian budget airline SpiceJet reported permission to operate services to both the UK and the US as the “Indian scheduled carrier”.