In view of increasing tourist exchange between China and India, Air China on Friday said it will start operating daily flights between Beijing and New Delhi starting October 31. Presently it has only four flights a week between the two cities.
The state flag carrier will be joined by another international carrier, China Southern, which is expected to start three flights a week to Delhi from Guangzhou (erstwhile Canton). Guangzhou, home to an over 3500-strong Indian community, is a throbbing business hub in south China.
"The flights will be seven a week on the first anniversary of our starting of Beijing-Delhi sector on same day last year," Zhao Quanzhen, Air China country manager (India), told PTI. The flag carrier had started with three flights a month. Noticing demand, it added another flight in March this year.
Air china plans to introduce two brand new Airbus 330s to ply on the Beijing-Delhi sector. At present the carrier is plying Boeing 767s and Airbus 300s. The new airbuses would be roomier with 30 business class seats and 256 economy class seats with "world class" entertainment during the journey.
Zhao said the expansion of operations in India was a part of Air China's global expansion plan. "By next year we would have high capacity 20 Boeing 787s added to our existing fleet of 212 aircraft, mostly Airbus 300s and Boeing 767s," he said.
Air china is also slated to become a member of the prestigious "star alliance" of world's leading airlines with members such as Lufthansa, Austrian, Thai Airways Finnair and United Airlines. "The tenth anniversary of the alliance is being held in Beijing this year. It is a high point in our airline history" Zhao said.
With more than 100 domestic and 37 international destinations, Air China has 35 per cent share in the domestic market and 70 per cent share in the international market. China Eastern and China Southern together make up 30 per cent of the China carriers' international market. China Eastern flies four Shanghai-Delhi flights a week.
"China Southern is expected to start at least three flights a week on Guangzhou-Delhi sector at about the same time as us (in October)," Zhao said. However, Zhou is not satisfied with the load factor." From Beijing to Delhi it is as high as 80 per cent, but the on the way back it is just about 60 per cent only.