Can Air India Express Compete With Indigo In Indian Air?

Air India Express vs Indigo

Are you ready for a sky-high rivalry? Discover how Air India Express challenges IndiGo’s dominance in the Indian aviation arena – a thrilling clash of strategies and soaring ambitions.

Air India Express vs Indigo


Read on for a front-row seat in this aerial showdown!

(A) Synopsis

We all are aware of the monopoly of Indigo in the dynamic landscape of Indian aviation. Now, it seems that this monopoly may not last long… Why? Because a spirited competition is unfolding between Air India Express and Indigo!

Why did the battle of Air India Express vs Indigo emerge all of a sudden? To gain larger market share and customer base.

Air India Express, fueled by Tata’s ownership, is strategically positioning itself to challenge IndiGo’s dominance. With a focus on revamping services, introducing the Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet, and expanding aggressively, Air India Express aims to carve a distinct niche. 

Well, that’s just the tip of an iceberg.

As you soar through this high-flying saga, we’ll uncover their strategies, fleet secrets, and in-flight experiences – everything that shapes your journey. 

Ready for a thrilling sky-high showdown?

Let’s begin!

(B) What is Air India Express?

Air India Express

Air India Express, a subsidiary of the Tata Group, stands as the low-cost arm of India’s flag carrier, Air India. Operating as an independent airline, it is known for its budget-friendly approach, providing affordable air travel to a mix of domestic and international destinations. 

Headquartered in Kochi, Kerala (soon to move to Gurgaon, Haryana), the airline operates around 649 flights per week, connecting 33 destinations, including prominent locations in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. 

Carrying approximately 4.3 million passengers annually, it plays a crucial role in linking 140 city pairs. Notably, Air India Express has emerged as the only profitable entity within the Tata Group’s aviation portfolio, outshining counterparts like AirAsia India and Vistara. 

With plans for aggressive expansion and the introduction of Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, the airline aims to compete robustly in the Indian aviation market, challenging key players like IndiGo. 

Despite its low-cost model, Air India Express seeks to elevate the passenger experience through features like hot meals and streaming services.

(C) What is Indigo?

Indigo Aircraft

IndiGo, officially known as InterGlobe Aviation Limited, is a prominent low-cost airline based in Gurgaon, Haryana, India. It holds the distinction of being India’s largest airline in terms of both passengers carried and fleet size, boasting a remarkable 63.4% domestic market share as of July 2023. 

Additionally, it stands out as the foremost individual low-cost carrier in Asia, leading the region with a significant jet fleet and passenger volume, having transported 76.2 million passengers in 2022. 

As of December 2023, IndiGo efficiently operates a network of 2,000 daily flights to 118 destinations, encompassing 85 domestic and 33 international locations, utilizing a fleet comprising 340 aircraft. Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi serves as its primary hub. 

Established in 2006 by Rahul Bhatia and Rakesh Gangwal, IndiGo swiftly rose to prominence, becoming India’s largest carrier by passenger market share in 2012. The company went public in November 2015 and earned global recognition, ranking as the fifteenth most punctual airline worldwide in 2022 according to OAG.

The question remains- Can Air India Express compete with Indigo in Indian air? To answer that, we need to go through detailed comparison on various aspects. The following sections will offer quick insights to the battle of Air India Express vs Indigo. Read on!

(D) Air India Express vs Indigo: Overall Comparison

First of all, let’s go through an overall comparison of the two famous airlines of India-

Name of the AirlineAir India ExpressIndigo
Commenced Operations29th April, 20054th August, 2006
Operating BasesBangalore,
Benefits/RewardsTata NeuPass
(Frequent-Flyer Program)
6E Rewards Program
Fleet Size36340
Parent CompanyAir India LimitedInterGlobe Aviation Limited
HeadquartersGurgaon, Haryana, IndiaGurgaon, Haryana, India
Key PeopleCampbell Wilson (Chairman),
Aloke Singh (CEO)
Rahul Bhatia (Co-founder & MD)
Pieter Elbers (CEO)
Market Share7%63%
Revenue (FY23)Rs.5,669 crore
($710 million)
Rs.55,878 crore
($7 billion)
Net Income (FY23)Rs.117 crore
($15 million)
Rs.-317 crore
(-$40 million)
EmployeesApprox. 1,27632,407
Air India Express vs Indigo: Overall Comparison

(E) Operational Features Comparison: Air India Express vs Indigo

Let’s compare Air India Express and Indigo based on the various operational aspects-

Operational AspectsAir India ExpressIndigo
Market PositioningCompeting with IndiGo by revamping services and offerings, focusing on food, entertainment, and loyalty programs.Dominant position with a significantly larger number of flights.
Operating ModelLow-cost airline, point-to-point services, operates in Indian states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka.Budget airline with a broad domestic reach, flying to over 60 destinations in India and 40 locations across Asia. 
Network DeploymentBreaking the monopoly of IndiGo on various routes by deploying Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.Focus on competition, but facing challenges with potential aircraft groundings.
Innovation and StrategyDifferentiating through offerings like complimentary meals, greater legroom, and breaking monopolies on specific routes.Consistent focus on competition but again facing same challenges with reconfiguration issues.
Expansion PlansAggressive expansion plan with the deployment of 50 additional aircraft, aiming to become the second-largest low-cost airline in India.Facing challenges in various exploring options for a competitive response.
In-Flight ExperienceEmphasising on-board services like complimentary meals and greater legroom.Simpler in-flight experience, no free meals or entertainment systems, known for efficiency and on-time performance. 
Loyalty ProgramsActive participation in Tata Neu loyalty app.
Potential for codeshare with Air India.
IndiGo’s upcoming loyalty program is expected to counter competition. 
PunctualityImproved punctuality, consistently ranking above IndiGo in recent months.Traditionally known for best on-time performance, facing challenges in recent months. 
Air India Express vs Indigo: Operational Features Comparison

Let’s compare some other features related to the operation of Air India Express and Indigo-

Other AspectsAir India ExpressIndigo
Overall ProfitabilitySole profitable airline in Tata Group’s aviation portfolio, reported a profit in the fiscal year 2023. Despite facing challenges, it is historically successful and dominant in the market.
Destinations30 international destinations including Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey, and Vietnam.Over 60 domestic destinations in India and over 40 international locations across Asia and the Middle East. 
Baggage AllowanceVaries based on ticket type and destination; charges for extra weight.Strict baggage policies with lower weight limits; charges for checked baggage, especially on domestic routes.
Extra FeesCharges extra for seat selection, meals, baggage exceeding limits, etc.Additional charges for seat selection, meals, excess baggage, and services like ‘Fast Forward’ for quicker check-in.
OTP (On-Time Performance)Recent data shows OTP of 87.1% in September, outperforming IndiGo.Faced a decline from 90.1% in April to 84.1% in September; traditional strength in on-time performance.
Air India Express vs Indigo: Some other aspects of Operations

(F) How Air India Express is competing with Indigo?

A cut throat competition is going on between Air India and Indigo. Go through the following table to find out-

Particulars (Competition Aspects)Description
Main ChallengeAir India Express is strategically challenging IndiGo, implementing various differentiators in the competition.
Ovens OnboardAir India Express provides hot meals with onboard ovens, countering IndiGo’s historical avoidance of such facilities.
Streaming Services“Airflix” by Air India Express offers streaming services, including discounts, inflight menu access, and entertainment.
Loyalty PointsActive participation in Tata Neu allows Air India Express passengers to earn loyalty points, setting a competitive edge.
Strategic DeploymentBoeing 737 MAX 8 deployment strategically breaks monopolies on routes dominated by IndiGo, providing more options for consumers.
Network ExpansionAir India Express aggressively expands its network with 50 additional aircraft, aiming to become the second-largest low-cost airline in India.
Operational EfficiencyRecent punctuality overhaul positions Air India Express as a punctuality competitor, outperforming IndiGo in recent months.
Financial AspectsAs the only profitable airline in Tata Group’s portfolio, Air India Express reports profit amidst industry challenges.
Strategies of Air India Express to win the competition

In short, Air India Express’s multifaceted approach promises a dynamic future for Indian aviation, reshaping the competitive landscape.

(G) How Max 8 of Air India Express is breaking Indigo’s monopoly in Indian skies?

The answer lies in the following table-

Monopoly Breaking RoutesAir India Express deploys MAX 8 on specific routes (e.g., Bengaluru-Mangalore) challenging IndiGo’s monopolies. 
Expansion to DammamLaunched flights to Dammam from Hyderabad and Mumbai, breaking IndiGo’s monopoly on the Hyderabad-Dammam route. 
Monopoly CreationIntroduced flights to Gwalior from Hyderabad and Amritsar from Hyderabad, aiming to create new monopolies. 
Swift OperationalizationUtilizes Boeing 737 MAX “white tails” originally designated for Chinese carriers, ensuring swift aircraft availability during supply chain challenges.  
Cost Efficient Network ExpansionSelects destinations within the existing network for MAX 8 deployment, ensuring cost-efficient operations and minimizing financial impact. 
Small Sector ImpactFocuses on smaller flight sectors initially, reducing the financial impact in case of operational challenges or competition affecting prices.
Eye for an Eye StrategyResponds promptly to IndiGo’s announcements, launching flights to Ayodhya from Delhi immediately after IndiGo’s Ayodhya service announcement.
Network SynergyLeverages existing network presence by deploying MAX 8 on routes with established sales networks at both origin and destination points. 
Consumer BenefitCompetition results in increased choices for consumers, offering competitive fares, improved services, and diverse route options. 
Role of Air India Express’s Max 8 in the competitive landscape

These strategic approaches position Air India Express as a formidable competitor, reshaping the competitive landscape in the Indian aviation industry.

(H) How will Indigo fight back?

By now, you have seen the aggressive plans of Air India Express to break the monopoly of Indigo in the Indian skies. Will Indigo just sit and watch? Is Indigo going to lose its crown of monopoly that easily? 

Of course not!

In response to the aggressive moves by Air India Express, IndiGo, India’s largest airline, is poised to mount a strategic counteroffensive.  Operating over 2,000 flights daily, IndiGo is known for its razor-sharp focus on competition. We all have seen how it easily beat off other airlines of India.

Note: We have already discussed “Indigo vs Spicejet- Which airline is ruling the Indian sky?” Go through the article for depth information.

Let’s return to our current discussion.

Facing the challenge posed by Air India Express, IndiGo is expected to retaliate with a multifaceted approach. 

And what’re those?

This may involve a combination of lower fares and increased capacity, tactics that have been successfully employed in the past. However, a significant hurdle for IndiGo is the anticipated grounding of 30 to 40 aircraft starting January 2024, adding to over 40 already grounded due to issues with Pratt & Whitney engines. 

The reliance on wet and dry leases raises questions about the airline’s ammunition for a sustained battle. 

Unlike previous competition scenarios, where IndiGo faced startups and regional carriers, the current challenge involves a formidable competitor in Air India Express, rapidly scaling up and breaking into key markets. 

The impending fight between these industry giants will undoubtedly shape the dynamics of the Indian aviation sector, and passengers can expect a period of heightened competition and, potentially, improved offerings.

(I) Final Thoughts: Will Air India Express outshine Indigo in Indian air?

Indigo vs Air India Express

As the aviation drama unfolds, the conclusion remains shrouded in the clouds. Air India Express, with its strategic moves, hot meals, and streaming services, is undoubtedly a formidable contender. However, the seasoned champion, IndiGo, known for its punctuality, vast network, and loyal customer base, won’t back down easily.

By now, you must have realised the fact that the competition between Air India Express and IndiGo in the Indian aviation market is dynamic and depends on various factors like route networks, service offerings, and operational efficiency.

Air India Express is making significant strides in breaking monopolies, expanding its fleet, and introducing features like hot meals and streaming services. On the other hand, IndiGo, despite facing challenges like grounded aircraft, has a track record of fierce competition and efficiency.

The winner in this competition will likely be determined by how well each airline adapts to market changes, addresses challenges, and meets passenger expectations. 

So, yes, the winner of this high-flying saga is yet to be determined!

It’s an exciting race, and the ultimate victor will be the one that effectively balances service quality, cost efficiency, and strategic expansion. Let’s see who will win- Air India Express and Indigo!

Thanks for giving your time to read.

By the way, which airline do you prefer- Air India Express or Indigo? Comment down your answer. We’ll be glad to know!

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Published By: Supti Nandi
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