Indigo, which is India's largest domestic carrier by market share, plans to enter the long-haul international market with budget flights, with the aim of competing with the hubs in the Arabian Gulf.
Indigo, which has a 40 per cent share of the Indian passenger market, is looking at acquiring Air India's international operations but its founders say it will push ahead with plans to expand into long-haul overseas flights regardless of whether a deal goes ahead with Air India.
“Today, a large number of Indian citizens and visitors to India arrive or depart on connecting international flights due to the lack of non-stop flights into and out of India,” says Rakesh Gangwal, one of the two co-founders of Indigo, which currently only flies to seven short-haul international destinations, including Dubai.
Large numbers of passengers to and from India currently travel via Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha, says Mr Gangwal .
“These small Middle East cities near India have built huge airline hubs even though they lack the essential and fundamental ingredient of a hub - which is the presence of a large local traffic. The massive hubs that these airlines have built have significantly benefited from the traffic that India provides to their operations.”
He says with its budget flights the airline would be looking at competing with foreign carriers flying across such hubs.
“We would take passengers from connecting international hubs and also from high-cost, non-stop operators and fly them on our non-stop, low-cost flights,” Mr Gangwal says.
There could be multiple benefits for travellers with the launch of these flights, he adds.
“On average, the passengers will arrive at their destination three to five hours earlier – and for a lower fare and without all the hassles of connecting over hubs, going through multiple security checks, worrying about their connections, losing bags in transit and so on.”
Rahul Bhatia, the other co-founder of Indigo, says: “India represents one of the largest untapped international air transportation market opportunities that is out there, and the country certainly lacks its fair share of long-haul international flights. In reality, India's international air transportation hubs reside outside India."
* Rebecca Bundhun