Business

IndiGo plans budget business class seats to tempt Europe-Asia fliers

IndiGo plans budget business class seats to tempt Europe-Asia fliers: One of the world’s most successful budget carriers, Indigo is considering cut-price business class seats as a way into the Europe-Asia market. India’s IndiGo, which currently flies as far as Istanbul, is mapping out an ambitious long-distance network. In an interview in New Delhi last week, Chief Executive Officer Ronojoy Dutta said, the airline aims to start one-stop trips further into Europe within six months.

By offering cheap, punctual flights, and charging extra for almost anything else, IndiGo has captured almost half the Indian market in just over a decade. Dutta’s long-haul plans are forcing a product overhaul to help passengers endure long flights and he’s considering everything from extra snacks to a brand-new business class.

Dutta said, “Once you get to six, seven, eight hours, the body gets tired, people need to use the washrooms more, people need to eat more frequently, all of those things change. We have to redesign our product. Is it more pitch, is it more food, is it more hot towels, is it a business class?”

Success could upend a long-haul market between Asia and Europe that’s long been the preserve of full-service carriers from Singapore Airlines Ltd. and British Airways to Emirates Airline and Cathay Pacific Airways. While IndiGo has become Asia’s largest low-cost carrier by market value, other no-frills rivals that have tried to go long-haul have left a hit-and-miss legacy.

It’s not clear what IndiGo’s business class would potentially offer or how much it might cost. The airline must meet other challenges too. Fuel is typically among an airline’s biggest expenses and IndiGo faces rising oil prices as it considers setting up a long-distance network.

IndiGo wants to operate one-stop flights to cities like London from New Delhi, while flying non-stop to countries like China, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Russia. It’s in talks with Airbus SE to buy a yet-to-be-released longer version of the European planemaker’s newest narrow-body jet. Dutta also confirmed that the airline is preparing to place a “large” order.

Dutta further added that IndiGo already flies to 53 domestic and 18 international destinations and plans to deploy about half of its new capacity on international routes.

A business-class section at IndiGo, which is operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., would follow low-cost Indian rival SpiceJet Ltd., which just started offering premium seats, picking up Boeing Co. 737 jets already equipped with the configuration.

Dutta said, “The airline business is strongly segmented by the length of flying. People’s expectations change a lot because the body demands change a lot.”