A six-fold growth over the past two decades in international air traffic from India and a focus on business and leisure travellers has prompted not only foreign airlines such as Air Italy, United and NokScoot to launch new routes to destinations in the country but has also caused several Indian carriers including Jet Airways and IndiGo to start operations on foreign routes connecting airports other than Delhi and Mumbai.
Air Italy, in which Doha-based Qatar Airways holds 49 per cent stake, started three weekly flights each from New Delhi and Mumbai to Milan effective December 7 and December 14, respectively. “The launch of our India-Italy sector represents another major step forward for Air Italy and reinforces our commitment to our network expansion plans in Asia,” Air Italy’s Chief Operating Officer Rossen Dimitrov had said at a briefing here. He had noted that India is a great market and there are “very high expectations” as there is an opportunity to grow. To leverage the traffic from points other than Delhi and Mumbai, Air Italy is planning to enter an interline agreement with full-service carrier Vistara.
Apart from Air Italy, low-cost airline NokScoot – which is a joint-venture between Thailand’s Nok Air and Singapore-based Scoot – launched non-stop service between New Delhi and Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport from December 19. “NokScoot believes these flights will appeal to both leisure and business travellers travelling between Delhi and Bangkok,” the airline said. NokScoot’s deputy CEO Giam Ming Toh pointed out that the carrier plans to add more Indian airports to its network in first half of 2019.
Traffic from India feeds to world’s busiest routes
The surging number of international flyers is drawing airlines to new air routes in India. During FY’18, India’s international air passenger traffic recorded over 10 per cent on-year growth, with a bulk of this traffic contributed to feeding some of the busiest routes in the world. A six-fold increase over the past two decades in international air traffic from India and a focus on business and leisure travellers has prompted not only foreign airlines such as Air Italy, United and NokScoot to launch new routes to destinations in the country but has also got several Indian carriers including Jet Airways and IndiGo to start operations on foreign routes connecting airports other than Delhi and Mumbai.
US-based United, which is one of the largest airlines in the world, also announced this week that it would be operating seasonal flight from New Delhi to San Francisco, beginning December 7, 2019 – making it the third non-stop service by the airline to India. Currently, the airline operates around the year flight from New Delhi and Mumbai to New York. “This new flight strengthens our international route network and provides our customers from India with even greater travel choice, with connections from San Francisco to other destinations across the US and Canada,” said Harvinder Singh, United’s country manager India. “Connecting the Indian capital to the US west coast opens up new opportunities for both business and leisure travellers.” While most of these carriers are connecting the larger airports, smaller airports are seeing an expansion in their international connectivity, too. Dubai-based flydubai has announced the launch of thrice-a-week direct flights to Kozhikode starting February 1, 2019. Additionally, German national carrier Lufthansa, which had halted the one-stop flight from Pune to Frankfurt, had resumed the route from November. However, the service has come under threat, as Lufthansa’s partner PrivatAir that operated on the route, filed for insolvency forcing Lufthansa to operate on the route using its own aircraft in the interim. Apart from Frankfurt, Pune has also been connected to Singapore, with Jet Airways starting a new non-stop services from December 1. Jet, earlier this year, also started a five-days-a-week service between Mumbai and Manchester. Other novel destinations, to where Indian carriers have launched new services are Phuket, with budget airlines GoAir and IndiGo connecting it to Mumbai and Delhi; the Bengaluru-Hong Kong route on which IndiGo has started flights. However, certain routes have been cut short, too. Belgium-based Brussels Airlines said it will withdraw service to Mumbai from January. Icelandic ultra-low cost carrier Wow Air, which is suffering financial turbulence, is likely to end its service from Delhi to Reykjavic in January barely two months after the launch.
During 2017-18, India’s international air passenger traffic recorded over 10 per cent on-year growth, and a bulk of this traffic contributed into feeding some of the busiest routes in the world. A report released by British aviation intelligence firm OAG earlier this year highlighted how on the busiest international route in the world — Singapore to Kuala Lumpur — Delhi and Tiruchirappalli were the fourth and fifth most voluminous destinations for transit passengers.