Indian airline SpiceJet has filed an application with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for permission to operate flights to the USA. Specifically, the airline wants to fly PPE and repatriation passenger flights between Delhi and New York JFK. Most interestingly, the airline wants to operate these flights using Boeing 737 aircraft.
SpiceJet’s USA ambitions
The Indian low-cost carrier SpiceJet has had its eye on flying to the US for some time. Back in July, the airline was granted permission by Indian authorities to become a scheduled carrier operating between India and the US. At the time, it was thought that the airline would be wet leasing an Airbus A330 to make the trip, rumored to be an Oman Air widebody that it had been using for London flights.
However, a filing with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) dated yesterday indicates that the airline has applied for permission to operate these flights with something not so well suited to such a long trip – its Boeing 737s.
Specifically, Spicejet wants to fly to New York’s JFK Airport from Delhi using its 737-700, 737-800 cargo planes, and 737-800 passenger aircraft. The filing relates to one -700 and five -800s, as registered below:
In its application, the airline says that it wishes to operate both cargo and passenger flights to New York. Passenger flights would be under Vande Bharat – repatriation flights only – given that India’s international travel ban has now been extended to the end of the year. Cargo flights would be specifically for the purposes of transporting COVID-related PPE.
SpiceJet is pressing for a rapid response from the DOT on its application. The filing states that,
“SpiceJet requests expedited processing of this application to allow it to begin the proposed services as soon as possible. Specifically, SpiceJet plans to start operating charters carrying COVID19 PPE cargo, and repatriation passengers between Delhi, India and New York JFK International Airport as soon as possible, thus contributing to the ongoing relief operations to combat the COVID 19 pandemic.”
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How to fly a 737 from India to New York
With a range of some 5,700 km, the 737-800 is incapable of operating direct to the US from India. Even the one -700 on the application, with its slightly greater range of 6,300 km, could not make the hop in one go. As SPD_Travels on Twitter said, this will make for a classic ‘milk run’ flight of some sort.
News |@flyspicejet has applied to serve Delhi-New York JFK. Initially PPE/repatriation charters. But, they want to do it with the B737-800. That means a good old milk run coming soon!
— SPD travels (@SPD_travels) November 25, 2020
So what would the routing likely look like? Well, we can imagine at least three stops along the way, possibly fewer when traveling empty.
From Delhi, the aircraft would need to make a stop in the Middle East or Turkey. Given the high costs involved with using an airport in the Middle East, we’d put our money on Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen International (SAW).
From Istanbul, the airline would likely make a stop somewhere in Europe. Shannon (SNN) is a good pick, with plenty of capacity and about as far west as you can go without leaving the continent.
From Shannon, SpiceJet could probably make the trip to JFK if the plane was lightly loaded or empty. However, we’d bank on it making one more stop on the route. Iceland is a likely candidate (KEF), or perhaps it would aim to cross the Atlantic in one go, stopping in Newfoundland (possibly Gander?) on the way.
However, a note in the filing may mean SpiceJet isn’t really planning to operate the 737s at all. A brief sentence reads,
“Subject to appropriate authorizations, it may start operations of charter flights through a wet lease arrangement at the outset and then transition to its own fleet thereafter.”
This may suggest that, although it’s stuck 737s on the form (because that’s what it has in its fleet right now), in reality, it will go ahead with a wet-leased widebody instead. There are indications that either the Oman Air A330 or a Hi Fly A330neo have been discussed at the airline, so perhaps this crazy 737 flight will never actually happen.
Whatever the outcome, with SpiceJet pressing for a rapid decision on its application, all should become clear soon.