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Foreign airlines see growth and potential in India despite troubles

The current plight of India’s national carrier is the biggest eye-opener for the aviation industry, both Indian as well as the international carriers working in India. However, there seems to be potential for the scenario to change completely, proven by the fact that international carriers are spreading their wings across Indian skies.

Emirates Airlines

Orhan Abbas is the Vice President India & Nepal, Emirates. Emirates Airlines, which currently operates 185 flights per week from India, is looking at connecting more atleast four more Indian cities namely Amritsar, Mangalore, Pune and Trichy. However, the carrier has exhausted all its bilateral rights and currently pushing for increasing the bilateral. Emirates is looking at a 52 percent increase in the number of seats on Indian flights, from 54,200 now to 80,000 eventually. The carrier’s capacity utilisation at 84 per cent from India shows that Emirates’ operations give the Indian passenger more connectivity. The carrier is also awaiting approval from the Government of India to deploy A 380 on Indian routes.

Turkish Airlines

Adnan Aykac is the General Manager of Turkish Airlines, Northern and Eastern India. Prior to joining Turkish Airlines, Aykac worked with Altera Export & Import Co. as a marketing specialist and manager for the Far East region till 2004. He joined Turkish Airlines the same year as a Marketing & Sales Specialist for Far East.

Turkish Airlines is keen to grow its route network and passenger base in India. The carrier currently operates 14 weekly flights to Istanbul from Delhi and Mumbai. Given the high-demand and great potential in this region, Turkish Airlines is also looking at starting new destinations in the country and also increasing flight frequency in the near future. The airline has signed a code share deal with Air India that allows the latter’s passengers to connect to Air India flights on the Hyderabad, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Amritsar routes.

South African Airways (SAA)

Sajid Khan is the Country Manager – India, South African Airways. Along with India he is also responsible for the Sri Lanka and Bangladesh markets.

SAA is now the only airline to fly direct from Mumbai to Johannesburg and has increased its frequency from four to six weekly flights as it continues to see an influx of visitors from India. Due to strong demand on this route, a seventh frequency will be added, come 3 October 2012, post government approvals. This development is a positive indicator of their focus on the Indian travel segment that has witnessed substantial growth. Going forward, they are looking to consolidate the Indian market by offering an increase in frequency and state of the art products. SAA also offers ten flights a week from Johannesburg to São Paulo and three flights a week to Buenos Aires. It is the only airline that provides the shortest travel time between India and South America.

Malaysia Airlines (MAS)

Azahar Bin Hamid, Regional Senior Vice President for South Asia and Middle East, has been with Malaysia Airlines for more than 30 years. He joined MAS as a Management Trainee in 1982 and worked up to his current position.

MAS, which had been confining its operations to having late evening/night operations at all its stations in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangaluru and Hyderabad, has started mid-day departures, starting with Delhi in late 2010. Effective September this year, the airline will see similar departure timings introduced in Mumbai, Chennai and Bangaluru again. This will result in a weekly frequency increase from 40 weekly services to 50 weekly services for the India points. Further expansion is in store next year as MAS thrusts ahead to eventually operate a double daily services from all its points in India. The airline also has a code share agreement with Jet Airways on all its services from India to Kuala Lumpur.


Axel Hilgers has been the Director South Asia for Lufthansa since October 2008. He joined Lufthansa in 1986 as an agent at the airport in Frankfurt and never looked back.

For Lufthansa, India is not only an important market, but an important long-term growth market with high strategic value. Choosing India as a launch-pad in Asia for their latest two products, the new Boeing 747-8 aircraft and new Business Class, underlines India’s importance in Lufthansa’s global network as well as their commitment to grow and invest here. India was the first Asian country where Lufthansa started scheduled services in 1959. Currently Lufthansa connects five Indian cities and their global hubs in Frankfurt and Munich with 46 weekly frequencies. Lufthansa operates daily flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai to Frankfurt and from Delhi and Mumbai to Munich. The Pune – Frankfurt route is served with four weekly flights. To further strengthen their market position, the airline has recently deployed the all-new B747-8 Intercontinental on the Frankfurt – Delhi route. The Bengaluru- Frankfurt route will be served by the same aircraft model before the end of this year.

Swiss Air

Jean-Philippe Benoit, General Manager- India, Swiss International Airlines joined the company in 2003.

Year 2011 was a satisfactory year for the company, both from the operational and the financial angles. Globally, Swiss Air transported more than 15 million passengers to 72 destinations in 38 countries. In India as well, demand remained strong throughout the year and the airline enjoyed good bookings. Swiss Air has launched a new dock and new lounge in Zurich recently, including central security which brings substantial time and comfort benefits for all travellers. This year, they will continue strengthening their position as the leading airline connecting India and Switzerland by introducing new on-ground and on-board services.

Cathay Pacific Airways

Rakesh Raicar, Regional Sales and Marketing Manager - South Asia, Cathay Pacific Airways believes India serves as one of the fastest growing economies and is one of the few countries on the growth path despite the global economic downturn. India has had to revise its economic growth forecasts but it still has growth rates that would be the envy of Europe.

In order to offer additional value to the passengers and generate more revenue, Cathay Pacific plans to introduce a Premium Economy Class on Mumbai-Hong Kong and Delhi-Hong Kong routes by late 2012. The airline introduced First Class on the Mumbai-Hong Kong sector in October last year. The new Premium Economy Class is a total enhancement of the Economy Class experience and is designed to give passengers more comfort, space and personal attention through their journey. The new Premium Economy Class experience features a quieter, more spacious cabin than the traditional Economy Class and will feature between 26 and 34 seats.

Kenya Airways

According to Bennett Stephens, Area Manager, Kenya Airways for India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, passengers from India are mainly tourists, wedding groups, leisure travellers and professionals. In addition to the existing market, Kenya Airways is looking to attract customers travelling to other African destinations via Nairobi, as the capital is quite well-connected to other African countries. He added that their Mumbai-Nairobi flights are doing well and have achieved a yearly load factor of above 80 per cent.

Kenya Airways, the national carrier of Kenya, after launching direct flights from New Delhi to Nairobi, is planning to fly to four more destinations in India in the coming years. The airline is looking at Ahmedabad, Trivandrum, Chennai and Bengaluru to start flight services. The airline is also going strong on expanding its global network with plans to fly to 115 destinations in the next ten years. The carrier has plans to increase its network from the current 57 to 91 destinations over the next five years. Kenya Airways also recently deployed Boeing 767-300 aircraft on its four-times-a-week New Delhi - Nairobi service. New Delhi is Kenya Airways’ 57th destination and its second destination in India connecting Nairobi after Mumbai.

Etihad Airways

Neerja Bhatia, Country manager, Etihad Airways was earlier functioning as Acting Manager for India. Bhatia joined Etihad Airways in November 2004 as Sales Manager for western India, shortly after the airline launched its first flights to the country - a daily service to Mumbai.

Etihad Airways commenced flights from Mumbai in September 2004 and today operates services to eight cities across India including Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kochi, Kozhikode, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram. The airline plans to launch a direct flight to Ahmedabad. The service, which is likely to be started in November this year, will offer nearly 1,000 seats a week to the capital city of Gujarat. The airline anticipates strong traffic from Ahmedabad during the peak season in November.

Air France - KLM

Air France-KLM recently announced the appointment of Yeshwant Pawar as its new General Manager – South Asia. Taking charge of the Air France-KLM office from September 2012, Pawar is responsible for accelerating the airline’s growth in South Asia, strengthening teams and enhancing relationships with partners and alliances in the region.

Air France-KLM, the result of a merger between Air France and KLM in 2004, and is one of the leading European airlines. With their partners Delta and Alitalia, Air France – KLM operate the biggest transatlantic joint venture with more than 250 daily flights. The airline received a lot of positive response to its premium economy cabin the ‘Premium Voyageur’, on its Bengaluru and Mumbai flights, which encouraged them to extend the comfort of this new product to the flights on their Delhi route early last year.

Singapore Airlines

G.M. Toh, General Manager India, Singapore Airlines, assumed his post in November 2010. Trained as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer, Toh’s career with Singapore Airlines has spanned more than two decades.

Singapore Airlines currently operates 52 weekly flights from six cities in India. SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines, is a full-service airline that currently operates 33 weekly flights from seven cities in India. Singapore Airlines and SilkAir’s combined schedule feature 85 weekly flights from 10 cities in India.

With effect from 28 October 2012, Mumbai services will increase from 19 to 21 times per week or three-times daily, Hyderabad services from daily to nine times weekly and Ahmedabad services from two to three times weekly. In addition, SilkAir has recently ordered 68 new aircraft from Boeing, which will enable the airline to spread its wings to more destinations and increase capacity on existing routes, contributing to the overall SIA Group network. To enhance the travel experience of their customers, Singapore Airlines is also making a US$20 million investment to develop new SilverKris Lounges over the next five years. This is in addition to recent investments in lounges including the new Silver Kris lounge at Delhi, which recently had its soft opening.

All Nippon Airways

Kenji Sugino, General Manager – India Mumbai, Delhi Office, All Nippon Airways, handles the India operations for the Japanese airline. All Nippon Airways (ANA) will begin operating flights between Delhi and Narita starting October 29, 2012. The airline, which has been flying out of Mumbai since 2007, will operate daily flights that will leave Delhi at 01:25 hours, reaching Narita at 12:50 hours, and leave Narita the next day at 17:20 hours, reaching Delhi at 00:20 hours India time. Furthermore, the airline hopes to successfully bring its Boeing 787 aircraft on to the Mumbai routes in the next three years, and also plans to start operations from Bengaluru and Chennai.

Sri Lankan Airlines

Currently the Chief Executive of SriLankan Airlines & Mihin Lanka, Kapila Chandrasena is also a GOSL nominee director on the Board of SriLankan Airlines having been appointed to the Board in 2008. In addition, he is the Director of SriLankan Catering Limited.

Sri Lankan Airlines currently operates 55 flights across India, with plans in place to increase the frequencies on most of their routes to touch 80 flights soon. The airline intends to increase the frequency of its flights from Chennai to 47, as well as launch night flights from Delhi. In addition, there are plans in place to start flights on their LCC Mihin Lanka from Madurai by December 2012, making Madurai the airline’s fourth destination out of India. Sri Lankan Airlines aims have over 100 flights across Indian skies within the next six months.

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