Indian budget airline SpiceJet Ltd. has begun an order contest between Boeing Co. and Airbus SE for wide-body aircraft, in the strongest indication yet that it will go ahead with a move into discount long-distance flights.
The carrier is evaluating the U.S. manufacturer’s biggest 787-10 Dreamliner together with Airbus’s A350-1000, Ajay Singh, its chairman, told Bloomberg TV in London Thursday.
SpiceJet is considering the introduction of flights to more distant markets including Europe, but needs Boeing and Airbus to come up with proposals to minimize costs, Singh said in an interview at the 2017 Aviation Festival. The carrier’s jetliner order book is limited to 175 Boeing 737 narrow-body planes.
Carriers in India, including market leader IndiGo, are set to order more than 1,000 planes as they look to tap an emerging middle class with enough disposable income to fly for the first time, according to Sydney-based CAPA Centre for Aviation. IndiGo, operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., is the world’s biggest customer for Airbus’ A320neo jets, while Jet Airways India Ltd. is in talks to buy 50 single-aisle jets worth at least $5.6 billion.
India has the potential to be a “tremendous'” long-haul market, “if you can work out the math and bring down the cost,” Singh said. While the nation of 1.3 billion people is the world’s fastest growing aviation market, expanding at a 20 percent annual clip, it also remains “incredibly price sensitive,” he said.
SpiceJet, based in Gurgaon near New Delhi, has purchase rights for 50 more Boeing aircraft of unspecified type. It could use some of those options if it chooses to buy the 787, according to Singh, who said he’s also looking for measures to maximize efficiency.
The airline co-founder said it’s still too early to comment on the size of a potential order or specific routes it’s eyeing for the long-haul operation. The move would put SpiceJet a step ahead of IndiGo, which has said it’s exploring a move into the discount long-haul segment.
Shares of SpiceJet rose as much as 3.6 percent Friday to its highest intraday level in more than two weeks, and traded at 133.40 rupees as of 9:20 a.m. in Mumbai trading. The broader S&P BSE Sensex index gained 0.2 percent.
SpiceJet’s fortune hit a bottom in December 2014, when lessors took away some aircraft, the carrier missed salary payments and canceled more than 2,000 flights that month. Since then, Singh has returned to the company he founded and infused capital as oil prices tumbled, scripting a turnaround which saw the airline post profits for 10 consecutive quarters.