IndiGo’s Premium Cabin talks resurface again

Amongst all the discussions in Indian aviation, the one akin to spotting a unicorn is a premium cabin on IndiGo’s A320/321neo cabins. I remember first writing about this in 2019, and the conversation is as old as IndiGo’s XLR order. However, supply chain issues did not exist then, and IndiGo has gone through leadership changes and is coming closer to collecting its first A321XLR. So, the time to decide is coming… closer.

IndiGo adding a premium cabin to some A321neos?

IndiGo has done things this past year that they never said they’d do before. For one, they are working on launching a loyalty programme. Second, they are already flying (a highly cramped) Boeing 777 in the guise of a wet lease and serving hot meals aboard. A wide-body order may happen when they get the terms from the OEMs.

Many equations have changed in the past five years to bring us to a position where IndiGo will consider this option:

  • The Indian premium traveller has gotten used to paying for the front row on IndiGo to get where they are going rather than insisting on a business class cabin.
  • IndiGo’s share in corporate traffic has only grown, with the airline covering more destinations in India than any other airline.
  • No-frill carriers have inadvertently flown the wider seats due to supply chain issues in getting full retrofits to their own preferred seats. Akasa insists we don’t call their cabin Business Class, but they have 12 seats from Jet Airways days on roughly half their fleet. Also, Air India Express is flying a few of these on their 737 MAX aircraft. So, data around the uptake of premium seats in no-frill carriers is now available.
  • Indian aviation has shrunk to a duopoly with fringe players on the sidelines.

The Economic Times reports that IndiGo plans to install four rows of premium seats for about 35 A321neo aircraft in their fleet, without telling us, however, if these would be newly delivered A321s or retrofits on existing aircraft. The report states that these seats will have a 36″ seat pitch (compared to the 30″ seat pitch on current IndiGo seats on the A320/321neos), meaning one row of seats would be removed to accommodate the premium cabin section. Thirty Economy class seats will give way to sixteen economy class seats, meaning fares on these seats will need to be about double or more of the economy to make up for the real estate they take on the plane.

While the details are short, I suspect these would be the Recaro PL3530 seats, which serve as a premium-economy cabin on long-haul aircraft but will serve well as “premium” seats on short-haul cabins. Recaro is already the preferred supplier for IndiGo at the moment, and this product is very well-known and durable. These seats fly as Premium Economy on Vistara’s 787-9 aircraft.

a grey and black seat with armrests

Further, these seats will come with priority boarding, which we all know, in India, is a sham anyway for now, with only Vistara making some effort to ensure the sanctity of the process. However, I don’t expect these seats to fly a lot on domestic routes; rather, this sub-fleet would serve the interests of IndiGo to fly abroad and offer some premium products for those willing to pay. As for the food, it would be hot water, dehydrated food, or fresh sandwiches, as IndiGo offers, because they are not going for an oven on these aircraft anytime soon.

This is just the way it works. Most airlines will feel the need for some premium products, or at least more comfortable products, on their aircraft, given the concept of dense cabins does not keep everyone happy, and the market has moved upward for some people to “afford” premium travel. But for sure, IndiGo won’t call it IndiGo Business but IndiGo XXL, just like Akasa went with the A++ moniker for their “wider seats”.


A bit more detail comes out on the timing of the IndiGo premium product now, and it seems IndiGo will go with some 30+ A321neos and fit in some 16 premium seats, replacing approximately five rows of Economy seats in the process. These planes, my guess, will most likely fly on the international segments, with domestic flights as well when needed.

What are your thoughts on IndiGo’s plans to add some premium seats on their aircraft?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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