Indian carrier SpiceJet is looking to open up the country’s aviation market even further, including to remote areas and Indians who have never flown before.

SpiceJet is working closely with Japan’s Setouchi Holdings to explore opportunities for small 10- and 14-seater planes to provide air connectivity to the remotest parts of the country. The company describes the initiative as “groundbreaking” because these ‘amphibious’ planes can take off and land without landing strips or runways. Reliable, tough and resilient these smaller fixed wing aircraft can land on water bodies, gravel and grass.

Demo flights of the aircraft have been held in Nagpur and Guwahati, SpiceJet says.

Infrastructure challenges

Ajay Singh, CMD, SpiceJet said, “Even while we are acknowledged as one of the world’s fastest growing markets, the ground reality remains that only about 3% Indians travel by air. Infrastructural challenges have been a key deterrent for providing air connectivity to smaller towns and cities. We are extremely delighted to join hands with Setouchi Holdings and look forward to exploring new opportunities that will help us serve our country better.”

“With the ability to land in a small or confined space, smaller fixed wing aircrafts are the perfect flying machines that can effectively connect the country’s remote cities and airstrips which can in turn revolutionise the regional connectivity scheme.”

Dr. Go Okazaki, Executive Managing Director, Setouchi Holdings Inc. added: “We are delighted to associate with SpiceJet for exploring opportunities in the field of aviation. We are happy to introduce Kodiak which will support this objective. Under this association, we have already executed land plane demonstrations in Nagpur and Guwahati. As a next step, we would also like to go for seaplane demonstration soon.”

Around 200 Kodiak Quest aircraft have been put into operation in the last decade.

Connecting India

Despite tremendous growth in India’s civil aviation sector, air connectivity to smaller towns and cities has lagged behind bigger cities, mainly due to a lack of proper infrastructure. UDAN or the Regional Connectivity Scheme, launched by the Indian government, aims to bridge this gap by providing connectivity to un-served and under-served airports. SpiceJet is part of this scheme.

Using these smaller planes could also see passengers paying lower fares and therefore, SpiceJet says it may need additional support from the Indian government.

A statement notes: “We hope that with these demonstrations, we would be able to impress upon the government, our willingness to go ahead with this project and have their support too.”