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Scoot eyes non-metro cities for India growth

New Delhi: Scoot, Singapore Airlines’s low-cost carrier, is trying to tap into the rising demand for air travel from India’s non-metro cities as first-time flyers seek exotic destinations and new experiences, a top company executive said.

“These are new exotic travellers,” Brian Torrey, general manager, India, Scoot said in an interview. “People are looking beyond known destinations. We are seeing new beach travellers. Just the general enthusiasm for travel, experiences…to be documented and shared with family and friends on social media. This trend is fast catching up, and I am visiting tier-II cities and new regions with potential. I see all the way down to these cities…it is not just for metros.”

Sales channels are changing, and some people in tier-2 cities are resorting to interesting ways, Torrey said, like using ChatGPT to plan their itinerary, and then visiting travel agents to book their flights and holidays.

Scoot currently flies to six destinations in India and plans to resume operations to Chennai from 5 November. It also seeks to tap the potential in other Indian international airports, such as the upcoming airports in Jewar and Navi Mumbai. It, however, should comply with certain restrictions under the air services agreement.

The India-Singapore pact was last expanded in 2013, whereby the capacity entitlements for carriers for both sides were raised to 29,400 weekly passenger seats for domestic carriers and to 28,700 weekly seats from Singapore for airlines registered there. Also, a memorandum of understanding was signed by the two nations in 2006 that designated Indian and Singaporean airlines to have unlimited access between 18 Indian cities and Singapore. However, Scoot said the air service agreement needs to be reviewed to accommodate new airports as well.

“There is a golden age of new airports in India. But, the constraint is that these new airports are not being added to the air services agreements, these are generally government to government discussions…they don’t move quickly…there is increasing demand from Chandigarh, Nagpur, and Indore, but we cannot consider them as it is not included in the air services agreement,” he said.

Addition of non-metro cities with robust demand makes sense for the airline as it has seen a new type of Indian traveller, who wants to explore new destinations, emerge since covid-related curbs eased. “There was some change during covid, when people did not want to drive for 8-9 hours to reach an airport — they wanted convenience. But the constraint is these new airports or opportunities are not being added to air services agreements. There are airports or opportunities that we will love to tap into, but, as a Singapore-based carrier, we cannot.”

Singapore Airlines caters to metropolitan cities in India, with bigger aircraft and different products. It may take up an over 25% stake in the Air India group, and has a 49% stake in full-service carrier Vistara.

Despite a complex competitive structure, Scoot said it continues to generate demand on the back of its network offering beyond Singapore to Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines at competitive fares. “Such competition is always there. We are also in the phase where the demand is quite high. Our flight timings are advantageous. It meets all itineraries. Some of our competitors’ schedules could be more compromised in one direction.”

The airline’s air traffic has reached pre-covid levels in India. It ferried 228,415 passengers to and from India in April-June, compared with 229,746 during the corresponding quarter of 2019.

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Updated: 11 Sep 2023, 11:38 PM IST

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