A New Homecoming: On-board SpiceJet’s maiden flight from Delhi to Dehradun on the Bombardier Q400
There are many things that someone hailing from India should be justly proud of. Sadly, efficient public transport, is not one of them. Only recently, a relative with a severe back condition travelled from Delhi (the capital of India) to Dehadun (my hometown) via train. Due to complications and delays, that train, which normally takes five-and-a-half hours to complete its journey, took 9 hours. The transit time increased to nearly 2 train journeys rolled into one and, as you might agree, showcased a pitiable – and rather frustrating – state of affairs.
For travelers pestered by congested roads and an unreliable rail network, SpiceJet’s twice-daily flights from Dehradun to Delhi will surely come as a fresh breath of relief as they offer much-needed additional connectivity.
Greater Connectivity, Greater Convenience
Today, I was privileged to be on-board SpiceJet’s maiden flight from Dehradun to Delhi. The carrier has been utilizing the Bombardier Q400 aircraft that it acquired last year to connect some of the major cities in India with Tier 2 destinations (read the Q400 launch story here). Dehradun is a another welcome addition: special, not just because it is my hometown, but also because it infuses much-needed vigour into the city’s slowly growing air service development efforts.
SpiceJet’s entry in the market could be what the city needs to wake-up other carriers that fly to Dehradun and help to stabilize fares that are often too high for the average customer. If the load-factor on SpiceJet’s flight today is a sig. of things to come, the route will surely be successful. The lower, more affordable introductory prices on SpiceJet are helping to attract passengers to the new service and connectivity.
For the upwardly mobile – an increasingly large class in Dehradun now – greater connectivity has been a dire need for a long time. Given how dramatically a nonstop flight cuts down the travel from these key city pairs, the addition of twice-dai,y flights by SpiceJet, especially with low fares, is an undisguised boon. One of the most renowned General Physicians of Dehradun, Dr KJS Sabharwal, happened to be on-board the inaugural flight. Since he flies regularly between Delhi and Dehradun, I tapped him for some personal insights on the state of connectivity between the two cities. He revealed how the improved connectivity is a relief for him because, being the busy person he is, and given the short planning time involved with many of his trips, planes are the most efficient mode of travel. Trains in India, unfortunately, have little place for those who wish to travel urgently at a moment’s notice. More flights to Dehradun, therefore, could not have come too soon.
Comfort in the Clouds
The experience on-board the Q400 was a pleasant surprise. This was my first flight aboard a Q400, and I was pleased to find that there was more headroom and leg-space than I had supposed there would be. The windows were also larger than those on most aircraft of this size. Moreover, the LED lighting was wonderfully effective in imparting a cheerful air to the cabin, which itself appeared rather spacious. However, the best surprise of all was how wonderfully suppressed the engine noise seemed in the cabin. If you’ve travelled on a traditional (older) turboprop, you’d be aware of how much of an irritant the noise can be; and, as a contrast, you will be delighted when you travel on the Q400!
I later had the opportunity to speak to the Captains and flight crew. They were, to put it mildly, delighted to be flying the Q400 aircraft and stressed three advantages that the Q400 has over its counterparts: speed, power and noise. The Captain, quite slyly I must admit, pointed out the window to an ATR aircraft of a competitor and made note that a single engine on the Q400 would be the equivalent of two on the ATR. He also mentioned that the Q400 holds up much better in bad weather and is more stable during turbulence. I must say that I was delighted to learn that such a fine aircraft is going to fly twice-daily to my hometown! Great move, SpiceJet!
Cashing in on Latent Opportunities
The Bombardier Q400, I would unhesitatingly suggest, was a really smart purchase by SpiceJet. There are numerous small cities in India, with a burgeoning middle-class, that have been thirsting for faster, better connectivity to the larger cities in India. The Q400 offers a cost-effective solution for the airline that larger jet-planes cannot aspire to.
However, challenges remain to get passengers past the perception held of “prop planes.” Given the newness of the aircraft in the market, deeper awareness campaigns that enlighten the public about the advantages of a Q400 over its counterparts may be required. I overheard a number of people talking amongst themselves about “a new ATR” that was being deployed for the new route and made it clear to me that they were unaware of what aircraft they were traveling on.
Another challenge faced is the turbulence that comes with an aircraft of this size. Despite the more stable flight I did find a few people getting flustered with the turbulence. By increasing passenger awareness of the handling capabilities of the Q400 in turbulent skies, SpiceJet will be able to quell the nerves of these easily spooked travelers.
As the airline continues to grow the popularity of the aircraft on its expanding route map, the sharing of passenger stories unique to each city may help to attract new customers for these short haul markets. SpiceJet has nearly 350,000 fans on its Facebook page, all potential targets for sharing the story of these cool new cities.
All that said, today was, a day to celebrate, and celebrate I did! Kudos to SpiceJet for this brave and timely expansion of their network. And congratulations to Bombardier for building an excellent aircraft in the Q400!
Disclosure: SimpliFlying worked with SpiceJet and Bombardier to lead the marketing launch of the Q400 in India, in 2011.