IndiGo plans budget business class seats to lure Europe-Asia fliers

IndiGo plans budget business class seats to lure Europe-Asia fliers

By / Business News / Wednesday, 15 May 2019 07:56

Low-cost airlines, the pioneers of brief discomfort at bargain prices, have struggled to master long-haul flights. Now one of the world’s most successful budget carriers is considering cut-price business class seats as a way into the Europe-Asia market.

India’s IndiGo, which currently flies as far as Istanbul, is mapping out an ambitious long-distance network. The airline aims to start one-stop trips further into Europe within six months, Chief Executive Officer Ronojoy Dutta said in an interview in New Delhi last week.

Success could upend a long-haul market between Asia and Europe that’s long been the preserve of full-service carriers from Singapore Airlines Ltd. and British Airways to Emirates Airline and Cathay Pacific Airways. While IndiGo has become Asia’s largest low-cost carrier by market value, other no-frills rivals that have tried to go long-haul have left a hit-and-miss legacy.

It’s not clear what IndiGo’s business class would potentially offer or how much it might cost. The airline must meet other challenges too: Fuel is typically among an airline’s biggest expenses and IndiGo faces rising oil prices as it considers setting up a long-distance network.

Discount carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, which launched services on intercontinental routes, has been weighed down by losses after a rapid expansion. AirAsia X Bhd., the Malaysian long-haul, low-cost airline, opted to focus on Asia after on-off services to London, although it still flies to a Honolulu, via a stop in Osaka. Both airlines offer premium seats with extra legroom, meals and in-flight entertainment.

IndiGo has captured almost half the Indian market in just over a decade by offering cheap, punctual flights and charging extra for almost anything else. Dutta’s long-haul plans are forcing a product overhaul to help passengers endure longer flights and he’s considering everything from extra snacks to a brand-new business class.

Scoot, the budget unit of Singapore Airlines, offers long-haul flights to Athens and Berlin. Its “Scootbiz” class on Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner jets provides leather seats, more legroom, additional carry-on bags, welcome drinks and one additional alcoholic beverage. Business-class flyers on Scoot are also able to charge their mobile gadgets on board, and can stream movies on their own devices.

IndiGo wants to operate one-stop flights to cities like London from New Delhi, while flying non-stop to countries like China, Vietnam, Myanmar and Russia. It’s in talks with Airbus SE to buy a yet-to-be-released longer version of the European planemaker’s newest narrow-body jet. The airline is preparing to place a “large” order, Dutta said.


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