(Image courtesy; BBC.com)
Indian airline SpiceJet is turning to seaplanes to boost travel during the pandemic downturn. The country’s biggest regional airline has approval for 18 seaplane routes. One of these routes is to Kevadia, home to the world’s tallest statue – a 182-meter-high homage to the country’s first interior minister, Vallabhbhai Patel.
Airlines have struggled during the coronavirus to remain profitable and many have gone bust, including the UK’s Flybe and Virgin Australia. Many others are on the brink of survival and have made severe job cuts.
During the pandemic, SpiceJet is focusing on new sources of revenue, including transporting cargo and regional flights using smaller planes. SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh said the seaplanes would help improve regional connectivity – an initiative being encouraged by the Indian government – “without the high cost of building airports and runways”, thanks to the planes being able to take-off and land both on small water bodies and short airstrips.
The 30-minute flights are operated by the subsidiary Spice Shuttle and depart from 1,500 rupees (£ 15.40) one way. SpiceJet will use Twin Otter 300 seaplanes built by aircraft manufacturer de Havilland Canada. They can accommodate up to 19 people, including passengers and crew.
SpiceJet began conducting seaplane tests in India in 2017 in Nagpur, Guwahati and Mumbai. Air connectivity through bodies of water such as rivers or inland waterways was examined.
During the national bans in India, SpiceJet remained active for more than 1 million Indians.
The country’s first seaplane route was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 31st of October. Apart from beginning seaplane services to Surat, SpiceJet also plans to introduce seaplane services between Port Blair and Havelock in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Kaziranga in Assam, Delhi to Naini lake, Haridwar, Rishikesh and Tehri Dam. Similar operations are also planned in Srinagar, Ladakh, Udaipur, Sunderbans in West Bengal and backwaters of Kerala.