Scoot, a unique low-cost medium haul service airline, part of SIA group, makes its Indian debut this month. It is said to be showing encouraging booking trends which will be panned out to cover three destinations by October. The SIA unit is clearly aiming to emerge as a formidable choice for Indian travellers on the fast-growing India-Australia route.
For global aviation major Singapore Airlines , May 24th is going to be a critical date as far as its linkage with India is concerned. Scoot, the medium haul low cost operator with wide-bodied aircraft in its fleet, will be touching down at two Indian destinations which will mark the beginning of its operations in India and also the presence of all members of Singapore Airlines in the country (refer to our story “SIA’s another affiliate scooting into India” published in February edition). Three entities of Singapore Airlines Group – Singapore Airlines (premium long-haul), Silk Air (full service) and Tiger Airways (low cost) – already have a firm foothold in India and Scoot’s debut should further consolidate SIA’s position in one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world. The icing on the cake is: SIA also has a 49 percent stake in the domestic carrier Vistara ( that entered the market early last year) and has shown willingness to fly abroad if the government does away with its 5/20 formula. “After Scoot’s entry, SIA will become the largest foreign airline in terms of penetration into Indian cities. We will be operating out of 15 Indian destinations and will be second only to Air India in terms of offering direct overseas flights from Indian cities,” Bharath Mahadevan, Country Head (India), Scoot told TourismFirst in a recent telephonic conversation.
Scoot has only Boeing 787 Dreamliners fleet as its major calling card has been preparing for its India debut for quite sometime. The management believes that instead of providing point to point services from Indian cities, it will work on a network model wherein all flights from India will be linked with its Singapore hub. “A network strategy makes more sense because it will provide plenty of choices to Indian travellers from our hub in Singapore. On May 24th, we are introducing two flights – Chennai-Singapore and Amritsar-Singapore route and this will be followed with Jaipur on October 2nd,” informed Mahadevan. Interestingly, after Scoot’s entry in Chennai, Tiger Air will pull out its Chennai-Singapore operations. “It is part of a broader strategy which we follow – we develop a market with smaller aircraft and then put in wide-bodied offerings when we notice a growing demand,” Mahadevan underlined.
Meanwhile, in terms of seat configuration offered on Scoot’s debut Indian destinations – its services to Chennai & Jaipur will have 335 seats (premier 21 and rest economy), its service to Amritsar will have 375 seats (including 35 premier). The airline typically works on no-frills model where the passenger gets the tickets at a lower price (15-40 percent cheaper than full service carriers) but has to pay for the amenities used on board. In terms of frequency, Scoot is introducing a daily flight on Singapore-Chennai sector while on Amritsar and Jaipur routes, the frequency in the initial phase will be four per week.
In order to promote new services, Scoot had also introduced a promotional fare last month selling tickets for as low as $64 to Singapore and according to Mahadevan, the response has been quite encouraging. “In the first few days of this scheme, in average terms we nearly sold 4000 seats on all the three routes where we are going to operate in India,” he added. And based on the initial booking trends, the airline is hopeful of a spectacular debut
“We expect our Chennai operations to become profitable from day one aswe expect our passenger load factor over 90 percent. In our Amritsar operation, we expect the passenger load factor to be over 60 percent in the initial months which will pick up as the passengers experience our services and this route could, therefore, become profitable in six to eight months period,” Mahadevan emphasised. Interestingly, SIA is making a comeback to Amritsar after a gap of eight years. “Singapore Airlines had a service to Amritsar which it had operated between 2004-2008. The load factor then was quite good, around 70 percent, but the yield was low which did not suit our service model. But in our reckoning, it has become a more promising market now and that is why we chose it this time,” he added.
From SIA’s standpoint, Jaipur is a virgin market where no affiliate of the group has ever touched down previously. “Jaipur is the new market where we are moving in. We picked it up on the basis of the tourism draw of the city. We are expecting good inbound tourist numbers on this route,” Mahadevan said. The airline is expecting its Jaipur services to become profitable between 8-12 months.
Meanwhile, with Scoot’s entry, the cumulative frequency of all SIA members operating in India would reach close to 125 on a weekly basis. While in terms of directly linking Indian cities with international cities, it will become number one foreign carrier (after Air India), the move is also slated to push its chips further up in the list of top players carrying outbound travellers from India – a segment which is presently dominated by Jet-Etihad combine, Air India and Emirates. “We would certainly like to have a more formidable presence in this list and we have already pitched in for more flying rights,” Mahadevan pointed out. And going by his version, it becomes amply clear that Scoot’s primary idea is to emerge as a formidable choice between India-Australia route, a segment where the traffic has grown significantly in the recent years and Scoot is strongly positioned. The airline presently has a fleet size of 10 Dreamliners covering 18 destinations across the globe (its primary destinations are: Australia, China, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea). And the airline is stepping into the Indian market with a long-haul perspective of having a wider profile. “ Next year, we will evaluate our performance on these three routes before taking a call for further expansion in India. But given the market dynamics and growth propositions, we will definitely have to aim for a larger presence in the medium run,” Mahadevan said.