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Indian aviation sector on a roll

By P R Sanjai and Rajesh S Kurup in Mumbai
October 14, 2005 10:56 IST
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Eyeing a major chunk of India-London service, British Airways is planning to start services from Hyderabad and Kochi after winter 2006, and the airline would launch a new five-times-a-week service from Bangalore to London Heathrow on October 30.

"We are planning to start services from non-metro cities like Hyderabad and Kochi after winter 2006. We are currently reviewing the bilateral agreement for the proposed service. We will be soon conducting the techno-economic feasibility for the Hyderabad and Kochi route," Sriram Narayan, manager (central India), British Airways, said.

British Airways currently operates 19 flights per week from London Heathrow to four cities in India that include a daily service to Delhi, a daily service to Mumbai, three times a week to Kolkata and twice a week to Chennai. From October 30, the airline would introduce five-times-per-week service from London to Bangalore, he said.

According to British Airways marketing manager (south Asia) Charles P Carneiro, the airline is looking to further enhance its presence in India with better connectivity to non-metro cities. Currently, the connectivity to non-metro cities is carried out by the way of alliances with Jet Airways, Indian Airlines and 'preferred partner' Air Sahara.

"We are exploring the non-metros including Hyderabad, Kochi, Goa, Thiruvananthapuram and Ahmedabad. However, Hyderabad will be our immediate focus," Carnerio said.

Carnerio said the airline would double its frequencies from Mumbai to twice daily and increase its flights from Chennai to six a week. British Airways has also planned a further increase in its frequencies from New Delhi to London Heathrow to twice daily from summer 2006.

American Airlines to begin non-stop flights

World's largest carrier American Airlines is set to start a non-stop flight between Chicago and New Delhi from November 15, making it the first non-stop flight from US to an Indian destination.

The new service will operate in alliance with Air Sahara, which will also double up as the US carrier's ticketing and service provider.

"Delhi is an important destination in our international network and this move underlines our commitment that, together with our global partners, we will provide customers with convenient travel to the world's principle business destinations," a company official said.

The carrier will operate the route with Boeing 777-200 aircraft in a three class configuration, with 16 seats in first class, 35 in business class and 185 seats in the main cabin.

This will be the longest in the carrier's international route, while the connectivity between the two cities will help passengers save time and money.

The service will help in reducing the time-taken to reach US destinations, as services to US are currently being operated with stopovers at Colombo, London, Dubai or Singapore.

The 7,484 mile-long Delhi-Chicago route will be operated in partnership with Air Sahara. However, the finer details of arrangement were not disclosed.

American Airlines also plans to offer special introductory fares to Delhi, which is slated to be lower by around 30 per cent than the existing fares on this route.

American Airlines will also provide connections to other cities in US through its own network or through that of its sister concern, American Eagle.

The company is also planning to introduce similar services between Atlanta, Dallas/Forth Worth and St Louis, and certain select cities on both east and west coasts of the country.

Jet plans Indo-Thai services

Jet Airways (India) is planning to initiate services to Bangkok. The airlines plans to start the service to the holiday destination in a month.

"We are keen on starting a service from Bangkok and the talks for the proposed operations will begin in mid-November," said a senior executive.

He said the airline would launch its Delhi-London service on October 30 and would be looking at more destinations including US, Far East, European and South East Asian destinations.

"Bangkok is an attractive destination and more bilateral agreement is the need of the hour for opening up of more market," he said.

With Air-India, Indian Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Thai Airlines already flying to Bangkok, there is immense competition in the route. The average load factor to this route, registered from India, is 60 per cent, according to aviation analysts.

"The presence of resort island Phuket is the main attraction for the tourists. Though the demand to this destination is seasonal, the entry of Jet Airways into the route will increase competition," they said.

An Indian Airlines executive said Bangkok had become favourite route for corporates for group travels. "It is an attractive destination for holidays and shopping. This can be available in the range of Rs 11,000 to Rs 12,000," he said. Air-India, too,has recently enhanced their Bangkok services in view of rising passenger traffic.

"Air-India has six weekly services to Bangkok. While two out of four service connect Mumbai-Delhi-Bangkok-Tokyo, the remaining connect Mumbai-Delhi-Bangkok-Shanghai," an Air-India executive said.

He added that Air India has launched a propaganda of "Far East is now Near East." Meanwhile, Jet Airway is also awaiting approval from US Department of Transportation for the proposed service to US. Earlier, the approval for a new service to US had been delayed due to allegations against the company on terrorist links.

Commenting on the status, Jet executive said the company has already completed its basic formalities and all documents have been furnished to US Department of Transportation.

"Now it is between US government and Indian government. We are expecting a decision on this regard soon," he added.
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P R Sanjai and Rajesh S Kurup in Mumbai
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