With prime slots occupied by Jet Airways at the congested Mumbai airport getting vacated, rival airlines have been grabbing the opportunity to expand their operations from the base.
On Monday, India’s largest airline IndiGo announced expansion of its international network from the city, besides launching additional domestic destinations, to cater to the demand following withdrawal of several routes by Jet Airways.
The three new overseas services include daily non-stop flights to Jeddah and Dammam and Abu Dhabi, while the domestic services will be launched to cities such as Indore, Kochi and Patna among others, IndiGo said in a release.
“We are strengthening Mumbai as a key travel hub for domestic and international connectivity from India. We are adding Jeddah and Dammam effective June 5 and July 5, respectively. Mumbai is the commercial hub of India and we see great potential connecting the Middle East with this city,” said William Boulter, chief commercial officer, IndiGo.
Jeddah being the commercial capital and the gateway for Haj, Dammam being the growth centre in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi being a major cultural and commercial centre in UAE, are critical markets for strengthening IndiGo’s presence in the Middle East, he further said.
The services on the Mumbai-Abu Dhabi route will be operational from June 5, the airline’s release added.
“Additionally, given the rush in summer traffic and the shortfall in industry capacity, IndiGo is temporarily adding approximately 20 new departures each from Mumbai and Delhi in a phased manner from April 15,” the airline said.
Other carriers, including Vistara and AirAsia India, too have expanded services from Mumbai with Jet vacating slots.
Temporary reallocation of unused slots is something that was done in 2014 as well, when low-cost carrier SpiceJet was nearing a shutdown and cancelled flights across the country.
The airline, however, received fund infusion at the end because of which it was able to survive. Industry watchers suggest that IndiGo was the biggest beneficiary of SpiceJet’s vacated slots in 2014.
For the Mumbai airport, which is the most congested airport in the country, slots have been unavailable due to lack of infrastructure expansion possibilities of the airport.
Analysts have said that a second airport, which is coming up at Navi Mumbai, will be imperative to release the pressure on the existing airport. The last time slots were made available to other airlines on a non-temporary basis was back in 2012 after Kingfisher Airlines folded up.
With Jet Airways cancelling a number of flights due to its aircraft being grounded, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has approved the airline’s summer schedule only till April 25.