IndiGo takes tentative steps into Qatar as it grows its international presence

India’s largest domestic operator IndiGo is to further expand its international network with the launch of flights into Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, its seventh foreign destination. The new daily links from Delhi and Mumbai represent the initial steps into a market that is likely that the carrier is already considering serving from at least four further Indian cities in the short-term.

IndiGo is all set to further enhance connectivity between India and the Gulf region adding to its existing markets of Dubai, Muscat and Sharjah; the latter being served from Kozhikode since March 20, 2017 and Thiruvananthapuram from April 8, 2017. Indians comprise Qatar’s largest demographic group, numbering more than650,000 people, or about a quarter of the population.

"Being an economic and cultural hub of Qatar, Doha attracts a lot of business and leisure tourists. Adding Doha on our network is in line with our growth strategy and more so for the Middle-East. IndiGo has established itself as a preferred carrier on India-Gulf routes. We are hopeful that this daily service would also prove equally popular with our flyers," said Aditya Ghosh, president, IndiGo.

The new daily flights from Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai will commence from May 5, 2017 and will be combined with a single aircraft flying a Delhi – Doha – Mumbai – Doha – Delhi routing. Further links to Doha are under consideration from Chennai, Cochin, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram, according to local sources.

IndiGo to Doha

IndiGo has established a dominant position in India’s domestic market partly at the expense of growing its international operations - its network encompasses 46 destinations, just seven of which are outside the country. It passed Jet Airways as the nation’s largest domestic operator in 2013 and this year is forecasted to have a 40.3 per cent share of total capacity, up from 39.3 per cent last year and just 13.9 per cent at the start of the decade.

In the international market IndiGo is currently ranked as India’s sixth largest carrier behind local operators Jet Airways, Air India, low-cost carrier Air India Express and Gulf giants Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways. It will this year hold a 4.1 per cent share of international capacity from India, based on published schedules, up from 3.2 per cent in 2016.

IndiGo first entered the international arena in September 2011 when it introduced flights to Bangkok, Dubai and Singapore; services to Muscat followed from October 2011, Kathmandu from November 2011 and then Sharjah from earlier this year. It currently links 18 international city pairs serving its six international markets with ten Indian cities.

Its expansion into Qatar, its first new country market in over six years follows a false start of its planned Doha operations in 2016. The airline previously displayed a schedule to launch daily flights into the Gulf hub from Delhi from February 29, 2016, but removed the flight from its inventory less than a week after it was first uploaded.

The airline had secured its necessary slots at Hamad International Airport and the decision was understood to have been driven by the growing domestic sector and delays with the delivery of its new Airbus A320neo aircraft.

IndiGo will face direct competition from Jet Airways and Qatar Airways on the Delhi – Doha city pair and Air India Express, Jet Airways and Qatar Airways on the Mumbai – Doha route. It believes it will be able to compete by using its lower-cost business model to deliver cheaper air fares which will not just attract existing customers, but also stimulate the market.

Analysis of traffic data from the AirVision Market Intelligence tool from Sabre Airline Solutions shows that average fares in both the Delhi - Doha - Delhi and Mumbai - Doha - Mumbai O&D markets are at their lowest levels ever. Air fares have halved over the past ten years; a period when O&D demand has grown 125.0 per cent and 65.1 per cent in the two markets, respectively.

Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…