SpiceJet aims for regular India-US flights, to start with repatriation and Covid-19 relief

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After having a busy year with Covid-19 relief operations, SpiceJet has now filed an application with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for a foreign air carrier permit to start flying commercial and cargo flights between India and the US, using its existing B737 fleet. With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Indian airline has said that its prime focus would be passenger repatriation under the Vande Bharat flight mission. It is also looking at cargo charter flights that will carry PPE kits, as a part of its ongoing efforts to contribute to relief operations to help combat the pandemic. They have also asked to expedite the application process to be able to carry out operations, starting with the Delhi to New York route, as soon as possible. 

The airline is seeking authorisation to use its B737-700(BDSF) as well as a B737-800(BCF) and four B737-800s, according to an online report in CH-Aviation. Interestingly, the likelihood of SpiceJet using other aircraft is higher, simply because a B737 will not be able to fly directly as it is 5,700 km, according to a simplyflying.com report. The flight would have to make at least two stops during the route. However, the airline does not have to mention how it is going to carry out the operations, as it is legally allowed to refuel enroute, according to a report in onemileatatime.com. The application by SpiceJet also states that it may begin with a wet-lease agreement for its charter flights and then transition into its own fleet, subject to appropriate authorisation. According to reports, this suggests that the airline could use the Hi Fly A330-900neo, which it has leased in the past. 

Earlier in October, SpiceJet announced that flights from Delhi and Mumbai to London Heathrow Airport will commence from December 4. Becoming the first Indian low-cost carrier to operate flights to the UK, it will use the A330-900neo to carry out operations. In August, it had also operated its maiden long-haul charter flight from London to repatriate 329 Indian and British nationals. In the same month, the airline also operated its first long-haul all-cargo flight to Frankfurt carrying 45 tonnes of cargo supplies. However, they are currently awaiting the completion of the ACC3 (Air Cargo or Mail Carrier operating into the Union from a Third Country Airport) validation from the EU to carry out operations. The validation is needed by all airlines who are looking to fly cargo to and through the European Union. 

Apart from the current proposed operations, SpiceJet has also stated that it intends to further develop its services in the US after the pandemic subsides. This comes at a time when Air India is the only Indian carrier to have dedicated flights to the US via Delhi and Mumbai. While it is currently awaiting approval from the US Department of Transportation, the airline was granted permission by Indian authorities to become a scheduled carrier between the two countries, earlier in July, giving them the necessary green light from India. 

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