AirAsia India – potential route network evaluated

AirAsia India – potential route network evaluated

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes was born in Kuala Lumpur to an Indian father from Chennai where he has decided to base AirAsia India, the seventh incarnation of the AirAsia low-cost mega brand. Fernandes may want to consider expanding his sports sponsorship strategy to the Chennai Super Kings (the equivalent of Manchester United in cricket-obsessed India) as the most effective means of overcoming the eye-watering competition he faces on the 11 routes anna.aero is predicting AirAsia India will operate.

Although routes are yet to be divulged, Tony Fernandes, Founder and Group CEO, AirAsia, has already said he won’t serve some of the larger Tier 1 Indian airports in his statements on the start-up of AirAsia India, the seventh operation under the over-arching AirAsia low-cost mega brand (following AirAsia, Thai AirAsia, Indonesia AirAsia, AirAsia Philippines, AirAsia X and AirAsia Japan): “Certain airports we will avoid due to their high charge structure.” Specifically Fernandes says: “We wouldn’t see Mumbai as a main destination.” However, he does acknowledge that: “Delhi has a kind of low-cost terminal offering.”  It would therefore seem that AirAsia India will initially link smaller, Tier 2 cities to Chennai and will also look add some competition on the largest international markets in the medium-term. Here anna.aero investigates the potential target markets.

AirAsia India’s Chennai competition is fearsome (for whom?)

What we do know is that AirAsia India will be based at Chennai International Airport, India’s third largest. As low-cost airlines typically like to “join-the-dots”, Bengaluru and Kolkata would seem to be the most likely Tier 1 opportunities, as AirAsia already flies to both destinations from Kuala Lumpur. Competition on the Kolkata route will be against Jet Airways, SpiceJet, Air India and IndiGo – a combined 56 weekly flights – and it will be fiercer on Bengaluru, where the same four airlines fly 101 weekly services! Ignoring the remainder of the Tier 1 cities (Mumbai, Delhi, and Hyderabad), all of which have in excess of 10,000 weekly seats, eight Tier 2 airports are currently served from Chennai.

Airport Airline (WF) Weekly seats Sector length (km)
Pune IndiGo (12), GoAir (7), Jet Airways (7) SpiceJet (7), Air India* (6) 6,445 911
Kochi Jet Airways (21), SpiceJet (21), Air India* (7) 5,607 519
Coimbatore Jet Airways (19), SpiceJet (14), IndiGo (7) 5,500 406
Thiruvananthapuram SpiceJet (14), Air India* (8), IndiGo (7), Jet Airways (7) 4,646 613
Tiruchchirappalli Jet Airways (21), Air India* (7) SpiceJet (4) 2,916 294
Ahmedabad IndiGo (7), SpiceJet (7) 2,583 1,372
Vishakhapatnam IndiGo (7) SpiceJet (7), Jet Airways (7) 2,254 617
Vijayawada SpiceJet (7) 546 396
Source: Innovata Apr-13. *Includes Air India Express

SpiceJet would appear to have the most to fear from the arrival of AirAsia India on its patch – as it flies to all eight Tier 2 airports currently operated from Chennai. Jet Airways would be a formidable competitor on six, with low-cost airline IndiGo operating on five, and state entity Air India on four of the routes.

Looking at the top four routes as being approximately the same size (in terms of 5-6,000 weekly seats), and assuming yields would be largely the same, Coimbatore, then Kochi (also served daily by AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur), with at least daily flights, would appear to be the routes with the most compelling arguments for start-up given that they have the shortest sector lengths of those city pairs. Conversely, with its lower seat volume (and therefore lower demand) and its longer sector length, Ahmedabad in Gujarat, would look to be the least appealing on this basis. Again, using the “join-the-dots” philosophy, AirAsia already flies to Tiruchchirappalli, 11 weekly from Kuala Lumpur, and, combined with it having the shortest sector length of all eight routes, perhaps a three, four weekly or even daily service may be considered.

Will AirAsia India invent some new routes too?

Should AirAsia India look to be a new route pioneer, there are a host of unserved Tier 2 airports from inside the top 20 largest airports in India, which are currently not flown from Chennai. All of the airports below already handle aircraft in the A320/B737 category.

Airport Annual traffic – million (2012) Sector length (km)
Guwahati 2.24 1,890
Lucknow 2.01 1,526
Jaipur 1.83 1,598
Srinagar 1.62 2,389
Nagpur 1.42 904
Bhubaneshwar 1.25 1,002
Indore 1.11 1,172
Source: Airports Authority of India

Notably, the average sector length of 1,500 kilometres to these seven cities is more than double than that derived (640 kilometres) from the eight Tier 2 airport already served from Chennai — probably one of the reasons that they are not currently operated. Using a similar methodology to the served markets, it would appear that Nagpur in Maharashtra and Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Odisha State, would appear to be the most attractive unserved routes to consider from Chennai. Nagpur sustains daily A320 operations to Tier 1 cities Bengaluru and Kolkata with IndiGo, with Delhi (16 weekly) and Mumbai (59 weekly) generating significantly higher volumes of traffic. Chennai is currently the only Tier 1 airport not connected to Bhubaneshwar — Kolkata (35 weekly flights), Delhi (34), Mumbai (21), Hyderabad (14) and Bengaluru (7) are predominantly connected with multiple daily flights and on that basis this potential route may even justify a double daily operation.

Considering a further macro-economic metric, city population, the largest Tier 2 cities in India currently not connected to Chennai, or having a top 20 airport, are Surat in Gujarat, which has a population of over 4 million (sector length – 1,196 kilometres), Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, population of 1.8 million (1,178 kilometres) and Patna, capital of Bihar State, population 1.6 million (1,487 kilometres). Surat currently has 11 weekly flights with Air India and SpiceJet to Delhi, and daily SpiceJet 737 flights to Mumbai — its only connections to Tier 1 cities. On that basis, if AirAsia India was consider services to Surat, it would probably start with two to four weekly flights to match potential demand.

AirAsia India route map

Jeddah justified?

Indian Government regulations normally require a carrier to have operated domestically for five years and have a 20-aircraft fleet before it can operate internationally. However, Fernandes believes that “that may change”. On that basis, opportunities in the international market may again be concentrated on those routes where the highest volumes of traffic already exists, and AirAsia India would look to steal and stimulate market share. Off the route development radar (and not included in the chart below) are Kuala Lumpur, from which AirAsia launched flights in April 2010, while Thai AirAsia added flights from Bangkok in March 2012, initially from Suvarnabhumi International Airport, but more recently from Don Muang – unless of course the airline believes there are robust reasons for operating an Indian-originating service to benefit passengers at that end of the route. For operational reasons London and Frankfurt have also been excluded in this analysis.

Chennai Top 10 potential international markets Weekly one-way seat capacity (Apr-13)

Source: Innovata Apr-13

The top three routes of Colombo, Singapore and Dubai would almost certainly be dead-certainties, given they generate more than three times as much traffic as the #4 route of Muscat. In terms of currently unserved potential routes, services to the Middle East will no doubt be high on the route wish list, with Jeddah being the only top 10 point (in terms of weekly frequencies to India) from the region that is currently not flown from Chennai.

anna.aero’s AirAsia India route predictions in essence:

Domestic routes to include – Bengaluru, Kolkata – double daily. Coimbatore, Kochi, Nagpur, Bhubaneshwar all operated at least daily – the latter maybe even double daily. Possibly a low frequency service to Surat. Regulatory approval aside, international routes to include Colombo, Singapore, Dubai and Jeddah. Flights are planned to begin in Q4 this year, so we’ll keep an eye on route announcements in the coming months.


Comments

  1. mahalingam says:

    tata airasia can expore the following routes/airports also
    Madurai/Chennai- Varanasi (pilgrimage route to link Kasi/Varanasi and Rameswaram)
    Trivandrum- Chennai- Calcutta/Guwahati
    Chennai-Salem
    Chennai-Goa
    Chennai-Agra
    Chennai- Visakhapatnam
    chennai-Calcutta/Gaya(Hindu/Buddhist Pilgrimage center).

    new airports would bring better eveues and costs less.

  2. chuck says:

    Great article….job well done…perhalps Air asia would need regional jets first to stimulate some of the indian domestic market tier-II and III cities and then back it up with the A320s…Any thoughts?

    • Marc Watkins says:

      Indeed, it will be interesting to see what they do with these these types of airports – fortunately there are plenty of fast growing smaller airports to fill.

  3. chuck says:

    Thanks, some of the routes of interest are BLR-IXC, BLR-ATQ, BLR-IXB, BLR-STV, HYD-VNS, HYD-LKO, etc…. The PDEW numbers today will support a 80-100 seat aircraft. Bypassing the hubs would be a great strategy..

    The A320 or B737 are too big at this stage

  4. Sen says:

    Chennai – Coimbatore
    Chennai – Tuticorin
    Chennai – Madurai
    Chennai – MANGALORE
    Chennai – Kochi
    Chennai – Vijayawada / Vizag
    Chennai – GOA
    Chennai – Surat
    ———————————–

    * Coimbatore – Tuticorin ( weekly flights )

    * Tuticorin – Coimbatore ( weekly flights )

    ———————————————-

  5. Gurusamy.P says:

    Air Asia can explore following routes also.

    Tuticorin – Coimbatore – Bengaluru

    Madurai – Coimbatore – Bangkok

    Chennai – Coimbatore – Mangalore

    Madurai – Chennai – Mysore

    Coimbatore-Chennai-Goa

    Coimbatore – Bengaluru – Bangkok

    Chennai-coimbatore- Tuticorin

    Jaipur – Chennai – Coimbatore

    Trichy- Coimbatore- Dubai

    Madurai – Coimbatore- Dubai

    Thiruvanathapuram- Coimbatore- Surat

    Thiruvanathapuram- Chennai – Kolkatta

  6. Rajiv says:

    great initiative

    apart from the above proposals, I would also recommend that air Asia can consideR operations on the following routes which are practically unserved …air India which cancels services more often

    Kolkata – port Blair
    chennai-Bhubaneswar-Kolkata
    chennai-Kolkata-bagdogra
    chennai- trivandrum- Kolkata
    Kolkata – Surat
    chennai- Jamshedpur- Kolkata
    chennai- Kolkata- silchar
    chennai- Gaya- Kolkata
    Kolkata- Gaya- Varanasi
    Kolkata- Phuket
    Kolkata- Singapore
    Kolkata- Dubai
    Kolkata- muscat
    Kolkata- chennai- Colombo
    Kolkata- Hyderabad
    Kolkata- port Blair- Yangon
    Kolkata – port Blair- vizag

  7. yogesh rawal says:

    chennai-surat
    chennai-dubai (via surat)
    surat-kolkata-chennai
    surat-hyderabad
    surat-chennai (via banglor)
    surat-mumbai
    surat-goa

  8. Linesh Shah says:

    mail and Reply from Airasiaindia CEO Mittu chandilya

    Dear Friend,

    As a flier I hope you have managed to sort your problems with the aviation authorities and we would be seeing you in the Indian Skies.

    As a resident of Surat, I request you consider connecting in your network the city of Surat, having 5 million population and the hub of diamond and textile business in India. Surat has an airport that can cater to Airbus and Boeing Aircraft and a capacity of handling 270 passengers every hour. Currently Surat is served only by 1 CRJ aircraft 6 days a week to Delhi. & 2 Boieng 747/800/900 to Delhi-surat-mumbai and BOM-STV-DEL It deserves much more than that considering majority of the fliers are forced to travel by road / rail to other alternate airports like Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Vadodra to fly long distance. Surat also has an independent Passport office and many international travelers. Even Airlines like Lufthansa canvass passengers from Surat to fly from Delhi or Mumbai. Therefore Surat offers good opportunity to mount connections to international flights from the international gateways in India.

    We wish you all the best and look forward to you flying again in the new year 2013-14. We do hope that with help of Surat you will profit and continue flying.

    * AAI will make as western india ( will be helpfull for connect western Asia and Europe – Africa) HUB at SURAT- STV with 600 hectors land second largest land after Delhi.

    Reply from Mittu Chandilya

    Linesh,

    Thanks for that passionate view in Surat. It is one of the cities in our near plans. Thanks

  9. Aditya Panda says:

    A very under-served route is BLR-BBI-BLR. Currently, Jet Airways operates the only direct flight on this route once daily and Indigo operates a daily flight via HYD. Both flights operate routinely at almost 100% capacity. KFA used to fly a third direct-daily flight and frequently operated an A321 on this route. One hopes that Air Asia India will capitalise on this––and BBI’s growing aviation infrastructure––and operate this sector at least once daily.

    DEL-BBI-DEL has also suffered since KFA’s demise. KFA used to operate double-daily on this route and at that time there used to be 9 daily flights on this route. Currently, this highly demanded route is served by only 5 daily flights by Indigo and Air India.

    With international ops commencing from BBI from 1st July, Air Asia India could even club these routes with BBI for operations to Middle East and Souteast Asian destinations.

  10. Jaswinder Singh says:

    Kolkata – Singapore route would be a sure shot winner. The current Air Asia travel to Singapore via Kuala Lumpur is a bit tedious due to the night halt.

  11. dr ajay bhat says:

    I would suggest the following route to air asia.

    Mangalore- Pune
    Mangalore- tirupati
    Mangalore- delhi
    mangalore-surat
    mangalore- kochi.

  12. Jubair says:

    I would suggest the following route,

    Coimbatore to Dubai

    Because Coimbatore is south India’s business hub and no direct flight to Dubai also so this is best route for Air Asia
    Please start immediately

    • William says:

      Yes, Coimbatore is one of the India’s well known business hub, If AIr Asia Starts direct flight to Dubai and Gulf, it will be a grate help for the business community to explore more business opportunities

  13. moorthy says:

    Coimbatore – Singapore/KL Best Route

  14. Madrasraj says:

    I would suggest the following route,
    Chennai – Bangalore
    Chennai – Coimbatore
    Chennai – Mangalore
    Chennai – Truchy
    Chennai – Madurai
    Chennai – Trivandrum
    Chennai – Goa
    Chennai – Agra
    Chennai – Visakhapatnam
    Chennai – Nagpur
    Chennai – Indore
    Chennai – Bhubaneswar
    Chennai – Bagdogra
    Chennai – Coimbatore
    Chennai – Tuticorin
    Chennai – Kochi
    Chennai – Vijayawada
    Chennai – GOA
    Chennai – Surat
    Chennai – Calcutta
    Chennai – Guwahati
    Chennai – Port Blair
    Chennai – Imphal
    Chennai – Patna
    Chennai – Lucknow

  15. Kurinji says:

    Should consider
    Trivandrun-Coimbatore-Hyderabd

  16. xyz says:

    i suggest to explore -

    Mumbai-Patna-Mumbai

  17. dnyanesh k.in says:

    airasia will certaily change the indian aviation sector. what needed is a very clear support structure from AAI regarding landing charges and other fees. Indian aviation governing sector is still very complicate to understand…….

  18. gyanaranjan khuntia says:

    Hi All,
    I want to refer a route i.e from Pune to Bhuabneswar.At present there is no direct flight or flights with 1hop from pune to bhubaneswar.Bot Pune and bhubaneswar are growing city in terms of IT and other industry.There is only one train service daily from Pune to bhubaneswar and one weekly.We all are facing difficulty for this route.If you can cosider this to fro route while considering a new route then it will be great.

    Thanks,
    Gyana

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