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Airlines keen to scale Great Wall

December 15, 2006 10:12 IST

Domestic airlines are keen to bring China into their network as the latter is set to become the country's top trade partner in the coming years.

While Jet Airways and Air Sahara are planning new services, Air-India is set to ramp up its services to China.

Industry analysts said the Sino-Indian air route is higly under-utilised with poor connections and frequencies. Currently, Air-India is the only domestic airline connecting to China, while China Eastern and Air China are operating with lower frequencies.

According to Confederation of Indian Industry, China may become the top trade partner for India in the coming years. In 1990, trade flows stood at $260 million, which increased to $7.6 billion in 2003 and $17.62 billion in 2005.

In 2008, this figure is expected to touch $20 billion and the target is to reach $30 billion in 2010. Jet Airways chief executive officer Wolfgang Prock-Schauer said, "Flight to San Francisco via Shanghai is likely to start in October 2007. We will be deploying wide-bodied aircraft in this potential route".

Air Sahara has secured approval for Sino-Indian operations. The airline will connect Delhi with Guangzhou. "We are in talks with governments of China and India for approving detailed plans for this service."

Last year, India and China had signed a memorandum of understanding for designating one or more airline to operate on the specified routes in these countries.

Aviation industry analysts said more Indian companies are setting shops in China and vice versa. "This would help to boost the traffic between India and China," they pointed out.

Ramesh Mangaleshwaram, Partner, McKinsey & Co, said: "There are complimentary skills when it comes to India and China. China, with a growing domestic market, is good at manufacturing in high volume, Indian companies are good on skill set. India has for strengths beyond low wages: superior engineering skills, increased domestic demand, availability of key raw materials and an emerging supply base."

A senior Air-India executive said the airline is connecting to Shanghai four day a week adding "we will be starting direct service to Beijing once we take new Boeing family aircraft."
P R Sanjai in Mumbai