LONDON – In a rather bizarre development in SpiceJet’s (SG) international growth, it has made a filing with the US Department for Transportation (DoT) to operate Boeing 737 flights to the United States.

Whilst the news of US operations aren’t surprising, given the American designation it was given by the DoT back in July, the choice of aircraft is.

The airline stated in the filing that the services will be used for repatriation of Indian citizens as well as transporting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) between the two countries.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Proposed Aircraft

It is understood that SG wish to use the following six aircraft for such operations, consisting of 737-800 and 737-700 passenger and cargo aircraft:

  • VT-SFB
  • VT-SFG
  • VT-SZJ
  • VT-SZK
  • VT-SZM
  • VT-SZN

These aircraft will operate services between New Delhi (DEL) and New York (JFK), with stops expected at least twice every flight due to the low range the aircraft will have.

It will not be able to do the 7,300 mile stint in one go. It may have to stop in places such as Eastern Europe and maybe even Iceland in order to make the leaps.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Confusing Economics Behind This

To do two stops en route to the United States isn’t exactly cost-effective unless it is bringing in valuable goods on each of the two stops every flight. Then again, the filing to the DoT may have been tentative in the choice of aircraft it will use when it comes to these operations.

Back in July, the airline announced plans to serve Amsterdam (AMS) using Airbus A330neos on wet-lease from HiFly (5K). Those same aircraft could in theory be used for the services over to the U.S.

The same also applies with its operations to London Heathrow (LHR), meaning that SG could always charter 5K’s A330neo for a longer period of time in order to repatriate and acquire cargo-based goods back into India.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A Growing Cargo Strategy

These developments into the United States represent an increasingly growing cargo strategy from the carrier. Another way it could service the US flights is through the Airbus A340 Freighters it announced it would acquire back in August.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the airline has handled over 10,000 cargo flights, meaning it is very well averse in how the system works, both domestically and internationally. It shows that what the airline is doing presents options for it both in the moment but also in the short-term future, especially as the vaccine gets distributed globally.

Such a strategy in the United States could be thinking about the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine, which United Airlines (UA) has already been preparing for.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

One to Watch…

Overall, this is something to watch over the next few weeks, especially to see if the DoT filings will be updated to larger aircraft, or whether indeed, the airline will use those six aircraft to service it’s American needs.

SpiceJet’s international growth strategy will no doubt make the likes of Air India (AI), Vistara (UK) and IndiGo (6E) sweat, especially as it continues to grow and not back down from its competitors.

But in the meantime, all we can do is watch and wait to see what the next move from SpiceJet will be, and to what benefit it will be to the carrier.

Featured Image: SpiceJet Boeing 737-800. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.