When some days ago I’ve seen the news of new slots available in London Heathrow, I wasn’t much interested in knowing which airline could’ve bought them.
I would have predicted a big carrier operating flights either within Europe or serving large destinations worldwide.
What nobody could’ve expected, by the way, it’s what has finally happened: SpiceJet secures slots in London Heathrow from September, at least until the end of summer operations, which will be on the 23 of October.
Well, it’s not an unknown airline, but for sure it’s not that famous in Europe.
Despite being the third most important Indian airline in terms of traffic in 2017, the low cost airline based in Gurgaon, it doesn’t feature a single wide-body aircraft in its fleet.
SpiceJet currently operates approximately 120 aircrafts in a fleet composed by 737NGs (including the -900 version) for the most part, some Q400s and it should also have operated 13 737 MAX-8 models, but you all know what happened with the MAX, and we are still far from seeing it back in the skies.
Why London Heathrow
Taking into consideration the strong relationship between England and its former colony, it’s no wonder that, for an Indian-based airline, the UK market can be interesting when looking for an expansion in Europe.
On the other side, by the way, there’s another fact that needs to be taken into account.
As IATA stated, the traffic level of the pre-Covid period, should be restored not earlier than 2024, meaning four year of increasing, but still low, amount of flights and payload.
This is what has left me a bit confused. I know that some airline in Europe are expanding, notwithstanding the virus outbreak, but I also knew that Indian market was looking that good, after no offers were received following Air India’s sale.
What SpiceJet is doing, I suppose, is trying to find new room for expansion turning their sight towards a busy and profitable market like the one that links Heathrow and India, after opening new routes to Dubai.
Securing slots in an airport that you can’t reach with your own fleet, however, has never been a good choice for any airline.
SpiceJet, which as I said doesn’t own wide-body types, came out with the most obvious solution, but it’s not that simple: operating aircrafts in wet-lease.
Wet-lease, as opposed to dry-lease, includes the aircraft and the crew.
Basically, if you have to operate an airplane in wet-lease, you would only put your name on it, and it’s doesn’t even happen most of the times. The airplane itself and its operating crew belong to the lessor.
The Indian company, as sources are reporting in these days, are looking to the possibility of operating Boeing 787s as their first choice.
SpiceJet has also been in contact with HiFly, based in Portugal, for an A330, but they should be still far from a deal.
What we know for sure, without any doubt which comes naturally with negotiations, is that the carrier isn’t interested in buying new types for the moment, but only in selling tickets.
Things could change if the service should become regular, meaning that SpiceJet would have eventually found a new market in Europe.