The UK-India market is on fire. During the last few months, two new operators, Vistara (UK) with its own Boeing 787-9s and Spicejet (SG) by using wet-leased Hi-Fly A330-900s, added to British Airways (BA), Virgin Atlantic (VS) and Air India (AI). And a third one is expected for next Fall: if plans proceed as expected, flypop will start connecting the two Countries on October 1 and is going to have a game changing effect on the market, by introducing non-stop flights from Birmingham or London to a number of “secondary” Indian destinations and by offering “lowest-ever fares” (as stated on its website).
A few days ago, the airline, which has its headquarters nearby London Stansted airport, announced the lease of 3 Airbus A330-300 (with the option for one more aircraft) from Avolon. Its founder and CEO, Navdip (Nino) Singh Judge (photo), is close friend to Air Asia (and Air Asia X) founder Tony Fernandes. The two worked together at Formula 1 Team Lotus and Judge mutuated from Fernandes the idea of a low-cost, long-haul carrier, with flypop set to be very similar to Air Asia X.
But, while the Malaysian carrier has dual-cabin interiors on its A330-300s (same type of aircraft) with a very small Business Class section, flypop will offer a single-class, all-economy layout capable of as many as 436 seats, which may be reduced to 418 to add an extra-legroom Economy option. Cross-section will be 3+3+3 (9 seats) instead of the 2+4+2 (8 seats) traditionally featured on the A330s.
Speaking of onboard service, passengers will be allowed to bring onboard a small bag for free or to make use of pay-per-item baggage options with an industry-leading 25kg check-in luggage weight allowance per bag. Inflight entertainment will be streamlined on the travellers’ personal devices for a fee. Several Indian meal and snacks options will be available for purchase, as well as a British meal option.
Fares have not been published yet, but they are expected to start from GBP149 for a one-way ticket. flypop targets mostly the Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) market and on its website it promises that, with its low fares and non-stop flights, short visits of just a few days to families will be possible. These are passengers who normally travel back to families in India or to visit relatives in the UK every two or three years and traditionally take advantage of the competitive fares offered by the Gulf Big Three (Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad), which offer flights via their hubs in Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi, respectively. flypop aims at “winning” those travellers, by offering them lower fares and non-stop, faster flights directly to or from their hometown.
Tickets selling is planned to begin in July, but no date has been fixed yet, as the carrier is still waiting for its Aircraft Operating Certificate (AOC) and then Operating Licence (OL). The network has been envisaged, already. The airline is negotiating slots at London Stansted (STN) and Birmingham (BHX), the latter being where a huge part of the around 3-million people Indian diaspora in the UK live, with London Gatwick (LGW) on the radar, too. The portfolio of destinations includes several “secondary” cities in the Indian Sub-Continent: Kolkata (KOL), Ahmedabad (AMD), Amritsar (ATQ), Cochin (COK), Hyderabad (HYD) and Goa (GOA) in India, plus Lahore (LHE), Sialkot (SKT)and Islamabad (ISB) in Pakistan, Colombo (CMB) in Sri Lanka, Kathmandu (KTM) in Nepal and Sylhet in Bangladesh.