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SpiceJet to Start Service from New Delhi, Mumbai to London Heathrow Under Air Bubble Agreement
On Monday, SpiceJet announced that it will begin flights between India and the United Kingdom on Dec. 4, making it the first low-cost carrier to offer the service under the current air bubble agreement. The airline says it will be flying three times a week to London Heathrow – twice from New Delhi and once from Mumbai – using a wet-leased A330-900neo aircraft.
While this is a step forward for SpiceJet, it will be competing with multiple major airlines on the routes, including Air India, Vistara, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh said in a statement, “I am extremely pleased to share that SpiceJet will launch flights to London Heathrow Airport beginning December this year. SpiceJet will be the first Indian low-cost airline to operate non-stop long-haul flights to the UK. London is one of the busiest long-haul destinations from India and our convenient flight timings should suit the convenience of our passengers perfectly. We hope our passengers, both business and leisure, make the most of this opportunity of creating fond memories forever with us.”
The new routes are scheduled to depart New Delhi twice weekly and Mumbai once weekly. SpiceJet has highlighted its departure and arrival times, having both flights arrive in London in the evenings and India in the morning. The company hopes the convenient timing will attract both business and leisure travelers.
The carrier is offering introductory promo fares starting at RS 53,555 ($727.59) on both roundtrip routes. One-way flights to London start at RS 25,555 ($347.18), and one-way flights to either Mumbai or New Delhi start at RS 29,555 ($401.53). While SpiceJet is a low-cost carrier, these fares are not far off from other Indian-based airlines flying the same routes. According to its website, Air India is pricing its one-way flight from New Delhi to London on Dec. 6 at $351. Meanwhile, the same route on the same day with SpiceJet is priced at $348 – only a $3 difference.
Furthermore, SpiceJet’s fare is actually $10 higher than Air India’s on a roundtrip flight from New Delhi to London on Dec. 11-21. With Air India being a full-service carrier, SpiceJet will likely struggle to get its footing on the route unless it offers amenities that can compete with major airlines.
India’s “Air Bubbles”
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, “air transportation bubbles” or “air bridges” have become a popular solution in restarting international passenger travel. The “bubbles” allow two countries to freely fly passengers between each other without imposing COVID-19 restrictions such as testing or quarantining. These agreements have been made between countries that perceive each other to be safe and have properly contained the virus, such as Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, who created the first bubble in May.
As far as India, the country has created air bubbles with 13 other countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, the Maldives, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Japan. The country is able to fly to London under the agreement with the UK, but it comes with restrictions; for example, passengers need to be a UK or Indian national/resident, or have the necessary documentation/eligibility to enter each country. Furthermore, under the agreement, SpiceJet cannot connect passengers through Heathrow to a second destination.
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