Turkish Airlines posted photos of one of its recently acquired aircraft being painted in IndiGo livery. It was an irony of sorts. IndiGo has a 300+ Airbus (and ATR) aircraft fleet with 500 more on order from Airbus, and yet, the first widebody that will join IndiGo in its own livery will be a Boeing. IndiGo had never operated a Boeing aircraft on its own or on a wet or damp lease (a wet-leased aircraft that includes a cockpit crew but no cabin attendants) until early February, when the Delhi-Istanbul route saw the damp-leased B77W start operations.
The aircraft, to be registered as TC-LKD is Turkish and under Turkish Airlines but exclusively for IndiGo’s use. Unlike the existing B77W, which comes with 28 Business and 372 Economy seats, the new aircraft is likely to come in with just seven Business class seats and a massive economy cabin with 524 seats in economy class. It is unclear if Turkish Airlines would continue to sell the seven Business class seats or if they will be used as crew rest areas or closed for sale — the economics of having a dedicated crew for seven passengers may not work very well.
So many passengers, really ?
For comparison, Air India's B747-400 had a seating capacity of just over 400, but in three class configurations: First, Business and Economy.
IndiGo's 531-seater aircraft will probably set a record for the highest number of seats for an airline from India for a scheduled commercial service. In this case, while the plane will have IndiGo livery, it still won't be an IndiGo plane in the true sense.
What will the interiors look like ?
Details are still sketchy about the interiors but it is unlikely that much would have changed since what its last operator wanted. The aircraft has 3-4-3 seating, 10 abreast.
The airline has more options for its Buy on Board and pre-book menu on these flights but has stayed away from hot meals. The codeshare has been contentious with a widely circulated clip of an altercation between the crew and passengers about meals on flights on the Istanbul-Delhi route. With more people on board, the chances of such incidents will only go up. The other issue that always crops up is that of lavatories.
But a B77W operates right now, why change?
Turkish Airlines regularly operates three dense-configuration (400 seats) B77Ws to India. One of these is wet-leased to IndiGo. If another one is also wet leased to IndiGo, Turkish will have to deploy lower-density aircraft for its own flights. Maximising seats to India with a limited frequency regime — 14 per week — this does not bode well for the airline.
Deploying the 531-seater for IndiGo would mean Turkish can comfortably operate two B77Ws with 400 seats each to Mumbai and Delhi.
What happens to the Mumbai route?
IndiGo’s flights between Mumbai and Istanbul are currently operated by the A321neo with a stop at Ras Al Khaimah (UAE). These are slated to shift to a B77W starting May 1. Will it be the aircraft that currently operates the Delhi-Istanbul route — as is currently being shown in the seat map — or will it be another densely configured B77W coming in soon? The chances of the latter are higher, in due course of time.
What is the downside?
Turkish Airlines, through its codeshare with IndiGo, had suddenly offered double the capacity in both Business and Economy class on the Delhi-Istanbul route. With this change, the seats on offer in the front cabin will come down drastically. The focus seems to be on Economy class, where the Turkish Airlines and IndiGo combo will have more departure seats than Lufthansa, Air France, Swiss and KLM — some of the carriers it is competing against, with or without onward codeshares.
The margins have traditionally been in premium cabins. So, is this a ploy to garner more market share or will the current high-fare regime make even Economy attractive? Numbers don't lie and we will know soon when IndiGo declares its results.
London, for its charm and sheer traffic potential, has always been on the agenda for every airline that started low-cost long-haul or low-cost widebody. Will IndiGo fly to London? That answer may be coming soon as well. The other question that should be answered soon is if there will be IndiGo livery Boeing aircraft with Indian registration.