SpiceJet is launching India’s first seaplane service later this month, after years of interest. The airline is targeting traffic to tourist destinations with the new service. Flights could start as soon as 31st October if SpiceJet is able to receive the needed environment and government approvals.
This isn’t the first time SpiceJet has considered seaplane flights to connect cities via waterbodies. In late 2017, the low-cost airline tested routes in Mumbai and other parts of India, signaling possible flights.
According to the Economic Times, SpiceJet Chairman Ajay Singh said the airline planned to start the service in late 2018 and could order up to 100 aircraft to deal with growing demand. However, the timeline came and went with little news about a potential order or new routes.
During the trials, SpiceJet operated the Quest Kodiak G1000 seaplane. The aircraft can seat up to 10 passengers and land on both sea and ground. Quest was originally owned by Japanese firm Setouchi Holding but has since been sold to French aerospace giant Daher.
New service in Gujrat
According to Firstpost, SpiceJet’s first route will be from Ahmedabad to Kevadia, both located in the state of Gujrat. Ahmedabad is India’s seventh-busiest airport and Kevadia is home to the newly built ‘Statue of Unity’ of Former Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel, the biggest statue in the world.
A new terminal will be built in Kevadia, which is 200 kilometers away from Ahmedabad. The addition of seaplane service can reduce the current four-hour journey time significantly. Flights will operate eight times a day, four times in either direction, allowing passengers to make short day trips as well.
It’s currently unclear which aircraft SpiceJet will use on such a route. According to Firstpost, the airline is in talks with a Frech firm for a 19 seat aircraft. This could point to Daher, the firm which now owns the Quest seaplane program.
One of the main reasons why seaplane services do not exist in India is due to environmental concerns. While not explicitly listed in the Environmental Impact Assessment of 2006, water airports are also seen as negatively affecting the environment.
The Indian government was yet to apply for environmental clearance for water airports as of January, despite laying out airport plans, according to The Hindu. It is to be seen if SpiceJet will receive permission for such flights, three years after it first tried.
SpiceJet’s plans to expand into the seaplane market comes as a part of an aggressive expansion in the last few months. The airline has started long-haul passenger and cargo flights, with flights to London starting December. All of this comes despite a difficult financial position and a sharp downturn in the industry.