American Airlines codesharing with IndiGo—by choice or lack of it?

#American Airlines, #aviation, #IndiGo, a codeshare agreement with IndiGo

The codeshare will be effective October 31, 2021.

American Airlines, one of the top three US carriers, on September 28 announced a codeshare agreement with IndiGo, India’s largest carrier by fleet and domestic market share.

The codeshare is subject to the approval of the two governments and will be effective October 31, 2021, when the American carrier launches flights to New Delhi from New York’s JFK airport. The airline will also start flights to Bengaluru from Seattle on January 4, 2022. As many as 29 routes are earmarked for this codeshare.

Unique route gets support

In February 2020, American Airlines announced a surprise route—a non-stop to Bengaluru from Seattle. With the coronavirus pandemic in full force, the route was pushed from the winter of 2020 to the summer of 2021 and beyond. The revised start date is now January 4, 2022.

Meanwhile, United Airlines announced flights between Bengaluru and San Francisco, only to be trumped by Air India that started the route first. United, which, too, had to push the start date multiple times, expects to launch the route in March 2021.

American had two challenges with Bengaluru flights—one each at the Indian end and the American end.

On the Indian end, the airline is new in the market and so is the route. With little feed from other areas—initial support would be difficult to find.

On the American end, Seattle is not the destination for a lot of travellers from Bengaluru. However, Seattle is the primary hub of Alaska Airlines, which is an American Airlines partner and will help feed traffic both ways.

The American flight to Bengaluru is scheduled to arrive at 0005 hours local time and the departure is at 0300 hours.

IndiGo is the only domestic Indian carrier with a sizable number of red-eye flights from major airports, which includes Bengaluru.

It will connect red-eye flights to Thiruvanthapuram, Kochi, Coimbatore, Goa, Mangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Kolkata and Vizag.

Also read: IndiGo remains market leader but rivals catch up in post-pandemic India

This will be the only flight connecting India non-stop to Seattle and with every other option being one-stop, a connection at an Indian airport could well be as attractive as any other if the price is right.

Delhi and beyond

The New Delhi-New York market is one of the most sought after and while there is demand enough to fill up the aircraft, a codeshare helps in expanding beyond the destination.

The American Airlines flight is scheduled to land in New Delhi at 1930 hours and will connect to almost every major city in the country with IndiGo. The return flight is at 2355 hours.

The only challenge at Delhi is the fragmented operations of IndiGo across terminals and the terminal transfer needed. The longer transfer times from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 can be a dampener for passengers.

Also read: For airlines to reach 85% capacity, non-IndiGo airlines need to step up

The last outing to India

American Airlines last flew to India in 2012. It had direct flights to New Delhi but they were discontinued. It was to partner with Kingfisher Airlines, which was on the verge of joining One World, a global alliance, and American Airlines had rejigged its flight schedule to ensure two-way connectivity to destinations in India.

Neither Kingfisher’s entry into One World nor the codeshare with American Airlines materialised as Vijay Mallya-owned airline went into a “holding pattern” and subsequently shut operations.

Why IndiGo?

American Airlines will be deploying a B787-9 aircraft to Bengaluru that has 30 business class seats and 21 premium economy seats.

The aircraft to New Delhi—the B777— has eight first class, 52 business class and 28 premium economy seats. None of these classes exist on IndiGo, which is a mono-class carrier.

However, with Vistara having a codeshare with American’s rival United, it didn’t have much of a choice.

There aren’t many options left for airlines to partner with. While both IndiGo and SpiceJet announced codesharing, only IndiGo has been able to implement it, making it a natural choice for American.

The difference in service levels will be overcome by IndiGo offering business class passengers of American Airlines access to lounges with food and drinks. This is likely to become a template for IndiGo as it codeshares with more.

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