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IndiGo plans dual-class configuration in 35 Airbus A321 aircraft, ET Infra

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India’s largest airline IndiGo may soon be ditching a one-size-fits-all model to have a premium class with roomier seats and perks like hot food and a loyalty program as it looks to court more business flyers and rival Air India on international routes.

Sources said that by end of next year, IndiGo plans to have its Airbus A321 aircraft in a dual class configuration. Cabins in 35 aircraft are likely to be fitted with a premium cabin which will have four rows of seats with two on each side. “Four rows of extra legroom seating will be installed in those aircraft, providing 36 inches of legroom for guests to stretch out or work comfortably,” said a person aware of the development.

Airline yet to decide on rates for premium seats
IndiGo’s legroom, or seat pitch in industry jargon, currently amounts to an average of 30 inches on its Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft with three on each side. IndiGo is yet to determine how much more it will charge for the premium seats but customers who pay extra will receive priority boarding, complimentary in-flight food, priority boarding and greater flexibility to make changes to their itinerary.

A spokesperson refused to comment on the strategic change.

While the no-frills model to pack more passengers in dense cabins and charging extra for food, priority boarding and seat allocation has served IndiGo well helping it to grab 60% share of India’s domestic market and stay profitable where airlines struggle to increase price of tickets. Since 2012, three Indian carriers have gone bankrupt failing to keep costs in tandem with expenses.

But IndiGo’s leadership is now convinced that with a firm leadership position in India’s domestic market, the airline should now use this position to become a leader in international market.

IndiGo’s CEO Pieter Elbers who joined the airline in 2021 from Air France-KLM has initiated a rapid foray on international routes. It also has Greg Sarestky who led Canadian airline WestJet’s transformation from a low cost to a hybrid airline, as one of its directors.

IndiGo is also preparing to fly longer routes with the induction of the Airbus A321 XLR aircraft which will start joining the fleet from 2025. The airline will use those to expand to European markets where flying time is over seven hours.

Those planes will also come with business class seats and have more leg space in economy with 190 seats.

Elbers had earlier said confirmed that the airline was examining the prospect of having a dual class seating but hadn’t taken any decision yet. “The speed of market development is so fast and we have kept all options open. Lot of startups, new companies are being founded in India and they will all go international. All that needs travel and at one point needs a different class of travel,” he had said.

A person aware of the strategy said that having a premium section will allow the airline to attract high yielding customers which it is losing to rivals like Air India and Vistara for the lack of a distinct product. “ The airline believes that there is a section of high-end leisure travellers and small business owners looking for a business class product at fares lower than those charged by legacy airlines,” the person quoted above said.

The person said that IndiGo’s model of having a consistent lower unit cost than its rivals will allow it to give a more premium offering at a more affordable price.

Investors said they will be watching this move carefully and will hope that it doesn’t impact IndiGo’s superior low cost model. “ The tendency of over estimation of premium traffic leading to hybridisation of low cost airlines may prove to be a strategic mistake,” aviation consultancy firm CAPA warned.

  • Published On Nov 23, 2023 at 11:59 AM IST

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