What makes IndiGo Airlines the most efficient airline in the Indian aviation market? Well, there are many reasons that give it this distinction, such as the use of highly fuel efficient aircraft and the operations model which ensures that the aircraft take the least turn-around times, are highly punctual in arrival and departure times and others. However, another factor which contributes to this efficiency, leading to cheap flights, is the hub-and-spoke model of operation.
What is the hub-and-spoke model? This is a model in which the airline flights to different destinations are routed from its hub. There are no or very less numbers of flights that operate directly between the two destinations without connecting the hub in-between. This model is considered to be efficient because it makes use of centralized management of the day to day operations of the airline. This reduces the requirement of having more staff for operations. Even the freight operations of the airlines can be handled more efficient at a central hub. Therefore, this model is preferred not only for providing the cheap flights but also for providing cheaper freight services. Interestingly, it was the Delta Airlines which pioneered the hub-and-spoke model at Atlanta in Georgia way back in 1953.
There are two ways in which this model is implemented. One way is to create the regional hubs and the other method is more decentralized as it makes use of the focus cities to implement point-to-point service.
But, there are disadvantages of this model as well. Any operational hassle such as bad weather can lead to delays in the whole system. Further, the capacity of the airports to handle all the activities of the hub might be constrained. This is one of the major limitations and the airlines prefer to choose their hubs after due considerations of the airport capacity. In order to decentralize operations, the airlines might also have more than one primary hub and/or some secondary hubs. Spicejet, another low cost carrier of India, has operational hubs at three airports. So, the airlines might decide to have more than one hub depending upon the sectors serviced, the demand for air tickets in these sectors and for better management of operations. But, all the flights from one destination to the other will be flown through these hubs only. There are no direct flights. IndiGo Airlines, focused on operational efficiency, has used this model to prevent loss of time and other losses such as that of baggage, which cost the airlines substantial sums as well as delays in flights.