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SpiceJet Plans to Start More Flights to Colombo, Kathmandu

[Wall Street Journal, Monday, 11 October 2010 08:52 No Comment]

SpiceJet Ltd. plans to operate up to seven daily flights each to Kathmandu and Colombo within the next six months as it looks to connect more Indian cities to Nepal and Sri Lanka, the Indian budget carrier’s chief commercial officer said.

SpiceJet plans also to start flights to Dhaka and Male within a year, Samyukth Sridharan told Dow Jones Newswires recently.

Mr. Sridharan said international operations will likely contribute 10% to SpiceJet’s overall business within the next 12 months.

SpiceJet is the first Indian low-cost carrier to fly internationally with flights from New Delhi to Kathmandu and from the southern Indian city of Chennai to Colombo. The carrier is likely to benefit from rising demand for budget travel on overseas routes.

A brisk recovery in air traffic this year has encouraged airlines to make ambitious expansion plans which include increasing frequencies on existing routes and adding flights to both local and international destinations. The expanding market for air travel has also prompted Indian carriers to buy more planes.

In July, SpiceJet placed a $2.7 billion order for 30 Boeing 737-800 planes, which will be delivered from 2014 through 2019. SpiceJet’s rival IndiGo, India’s biggest low-fare carrier by market share, earlier this year got government approval to order 150 new planes after 2012.

SpiceJet started operating six weekly flights on the Delhi-Kathmandu route on Oct. 7, and a daily Chennai-Colombo return flight on Oct. 9.

SpiceJet is considering connecting Kathmandu and Colombo to the Indian cities of Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Bangalore, Mr. Sridharan said.

"They might not be direct flights. Bangalore looks to be most promising for flights to Kathmandu. We should start a flight between Delhi and Colombo within the next six months," he said.

The carrier expects load factors on international routes to remain above 80%, which will help overseas flights break even within the next two months, Mr. Sridharan said.

Full service carriers such as Jet Airways (India) Ltd. and Kingfisher Airlines Ltd., which operate flights to the U.S. and Europe, said earlier that such long-haul operations take at least 18 months from launch to break even.

SpiceJet has no immediate plan to hike fares on international routes.

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