Hong Kong-India flights launch with potentially disruptive business model

Indian budget airline IndiGo is trialing low-cost flights connecting Hong Kong with the South Asian subcontinent, with a Bangalore route debuting last week. This follows another low-cost airline, Gurgaon-based Spicejet, which launched a route between Hong Kong and New Delhi late last month.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post, IndiGo Chief Commercial Officer William Boulter said that the plan for its Bangalore route and other Indian connections was to use smaller planes over longer distances with possible midway refuel stops.

The company is also looking to launch longer- haul flights to London using its existing fleet, with possible stopovers at either Baku in Azerbaijan or Tbilisi in Georgia, by the middle of next year.

“We are in a test phase and to an extent experimenting with some of these routes,” Boulter told the SCMP. “We pride ourselves on having the lowest cost among operators in India […] and that enables us to always be competitive. Any price that is put into the market, we will match.”

The SCMP suggests that if IndiGo succeeds with the long-haul flights it is planning, this could open up new routes to other destinations in Europe and Australia, posing yet another challenge to traditional airlines.

Before that, the airline needs to prove that its smaller planes requiring refueling can be a competitive alternative to the traditional airlines and local low-budget carriers.

“One can do market studies,” said Boulter, “but until you [start] the route and understand the competitive dynamics, it’s always tough. But that is what makes the airline industry more interesting.”

“We are confident our narrow-body approach will be helpful in terms of profitability,” he said.

With regards to the Hong Kong route, IndiGo says that sales are growing but still fall short of the airline’s average of 84 percent of seats sold. For now, the route is selling about 65 to 70 percent of seats, however Boulter has positive expectations for January 2019.

Macau has also been on the radar for direct flights to the Indian subcontinent, with the idea having been discussed several times in recent years.

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