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Air India, others plan direct flights to top global destinations

January 20, 2014 09:38 IST

Air India, others plan direct flights to top global destinations

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Sharmistha Mukherjee & Surajeet Das Gupta in New Delhi

Airlines are in talks with DIAL over connectivity on 7 routes.


These are some of the hottest international destinations and 2.42 million people visit these from India every year.

But passengers flying to these 15 — San Francisco, Los Angeles, Milan-Malpensa, Washington-Dulles, Vancouver, Boston, Rome-Fiumicino, Jakarta, Seattle, Lagos, Manila, Tel Aviv, Brisbane, Auckland and Barcelona — are forced to take transit flights from other international hubs in the absence of direct flights from the country.

That is set to change soon, with state-owned Air India (armed with its Dreamliners) and some other leading international airlines negotiating with Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) to operate direct flights to seven of these destinations — Milan-Malpensa, Rome-Fiumicino, Jakarta, Lagos, Manila, Tel Aviv and Barcelona — and cash in on the large untapped market.

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Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters
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So far, flyers from India to the US’ western coast, Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia have to transit via other international hubs.

According to Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation (Capa), close to 40 per cent of India’s international traffic reaches its final destination via an intermediate offshore airport — almost half of the traffic takes transit flights from West Asian hubs.

The top among these destinations is the US’ western coast (San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle), which accounts for a little over 33 per cent of India’s international flyers.

Every day, as many as 1,100 people from India travel to these places, taking transit flights from Dubai, London, Singapore, Amsterdam or Hong Kong.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Among other places, close to 200,000 passengers fly from Indian cities to Milan every year.

The plan is to connect Malpensa in Milan and Delhi with a direct Air India Dreamliner flight. Some other top cities being considered for direct connectivity from Delhi are Flumicino and Jakarta, where 146,000 and 138,700 passengers, respectively, fly from India every year.

Besides, talks are also on for Air India flights to the Spanish cities of Barcelona and Madrid.

DIAL, which runs the Delhi airport, is also in discussions with other airlines to operate direct flights to Lagos, Manila (Malindo Air could start a direct flight) and Tel Aviv. Besides, Cairo, where an average 103 people travel from India every day, may also get a direct link.

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Image: The city of Milan.
Photographs: Reuters

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Kiran Jain, head of airline marketing & route development at DIAL, says: “There is a sizeable traffic on these routes. But passengers have to transit via other hubs as there are no direct flights to these centres from Delhi.

On routes where direct flights are launched, the number of passengers typically increases 25-30 per cent over the initial estimated traffic, as passengers from other nearby areas also get to avail of better travel options.”

Jain admits there are challenges in breaking into the lucrative market of the US' western coast, where direct flights from India will take 17-18 hours to reach.

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Image: Delhi airport.
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters
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Technically, wide aircraft like the 777s or the Dreamliners are equipped for such long-haul flights, but airlines are studying whether passengers prefer a direct flight or a gap in between.

The move to directly connect Delhi with these seven destinations is also expected to help the airport increase its share of transit traffic.

DIAL expects transit passengers to account for more than a quarter of its total traffic by 2015-16, compared with 17.8 per cent estimated by the close of this financial year.


Photographs: Reuters

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