SpiceJet eyes six million passengers with increased fleet


New Delhi : Domestic low cost carrier SpiceJet entered its third year of operations Tuesday aiming to double its passengers to six million in the next year with the addition of five extended range (ER) jets to its fleet of 11 aircraft.

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To mark the anniversary, the airline also announced a series of promotional measures, including offering 200,000 seats at 99 paise, a domestic travel insurance policy at a premium of Rs.129, and the sale of food on board flights of more than 90 minutes duration.

The airline says that in the April-June quarter, it will be the first low cost carrier to come out of the red and even show profits.

In the longer run, the airline is also eyeing destinations in the Middle East and Southeast Asia once Indian norms on such operations are relaxed.

"It's been an uphill task but we are built on a solid foundation. We carried 1.5 million passengers in our first year, doubled that in the second and are now aiming at carrying six million passengers in our third year," SpiceJet CEO Siddhanth Sharma told reporters here Tuesday.

The airline, which currently operates 64 flights to 14 destinations, hopes to add six new ones during the year and increase the number of flights to 150 per day.

"We started out with one aircraft and now operate 11. We will be adding five brand new Boeing 737-900ERs this year alone and hope to grow to a 26 aircraft fleet by March 2009 and to 35 by 2011," he stated.

With a capacity of 211 passengers, the new aircraft will be the largest in the domestic aviation sector.

"This will enable us to lower our operating costs even further and we will pass on the benefits of this to our passengers," Sharma maintained.

According to the official, with fares 40 percent lower that full service carriers, SpiceJet earns an average of Rs.2,500 from each passenger that translates into a profit of Rs.2.20 per seat sold.

"With 11 aircraft, we have a market share of 71/2 percent. But we are not focusing on market share but on increasing our yields (profits). This makes us confident that we are likely to break even in the April-June quarter and would be the first of the new entrants to achieve the feat," Sharma said.

"Our focus thus far has been not so much on adding destinations but improving frequencies to where we fly. We are also looking at linking some of our destinations that do not have flights between them.

"For instance, we fly to Mumbai and Kolkata but there are no flights between them so we might add some," Sharma explained.

Speaking about the new initiatives, he said SpiceJet would offer 200,000 tickets at 99 paise each for a two-week period till June for two or more passengers travelling together. These seats could be booked on the airline's website www.spicejet.com.

The travel insurance scheme is being offered in collaboration with TATA-AIG.

"For instance, if a flight gets delayed for more than six hours, a passenger can claim Rs.1,500. There are varying amounts for other exigencies.

On the prospect of flying to foreign destinations, Sharma said SpiceJet would "take a call" on this once government norms relating to this were modified.

"Right now, an airline can fly abroad only after five years of domestic operations. We hear this will come down to three years. Once that happens we will take a call on flying out of the country," Sharma stated, adding that the new Boeing 737-900ERs would enable the airline fly to destinations in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.