Over 1.3 million, or 49% of passengers flew to the US via airports in the Gulf in FY16
Washington DC’s decision to impose curbs on taking iPads and laptops as cabin baggage will impact nearly half of the passengers between India and the US.
Data compiled by aviation consultancy CAPA showed that in FY16, at least 1.3 million passengers flew to the US via airports in the Persian Gulf, and accounted for 49 per cent of the 2.69 million passengers between the two countries.
An overwhelming 82 per cent of passengers to the US travelled via the Gulf, Europe or East Asia. Gulf airlines, especially Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, carried the bulk of the 49 per cent flown on the route, an indication of their dominance in the market.
About 27 per cent of US-bound passengers flew via Europe and 6.2 per cent via airports in East Asia. The data are for one-way traffic to the US.
The proportion of flyers from Mumbai and Delhi who travel (one stop) via the Gulf is 30-40 per cent. In case of Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai, the share is 53-63 per cent.
Air India and United Airlines operate non-stop flights from Mumbai and Delhi to the US, which could explain the relatively lower share of one-stop traffic.
Of the 2.69 million passengers, only 468,000 flew non-stop to the US on Air India or United flights. The share of non-stop traffic was around 17.4 per cent of the traffic on the India-US routes.
The US’ decision could see a shift of traffic from Gulf airlines to Air India, Jet Airways and European airlines. Jet Airways does not have a non-stop flight to the US but has code-share partnerships with Air France, KLM and Delta, enabling passengers to travel via Europe.
Air India is planning to launch a non-stop Delhi-Washington service from July, expanding its US network. Its share of traffic has increased in the past year with the launch of a Delhi-San Francisco flight.
Kapil Kaul, chief executive officer of CAPA, said: “We see the US government decision causing serious inconvenience to passengers and nothing more. The decision may result in some business-class traffic shifting out of the Gulf. But, given the very high demand, do not expect anything significant.”
A senior airline executive said the peak summer travel season would start from April and would see high leisure traffic to the US.
Typically, around 40 per cent of the traffic on the India-US routes comprise corporate travel. The impact would be mainly for those who carry electronic devices with them. Booking and cancellation trends should be known next week after the ban kicks in, he added.
Chief executive of SOTC Business Travel Manoj Chacko said: “The new security measure banning many electronic devices on flights is a major concern for business travellers than leisure travellers, as they will have to reconsider their travel through airports in West Asia.
The new regulation is expected to have great impact on the Indian business traveller transiting through some of these airports while travelling to the US. A majority of travellers will now avoid a West Asian airline carrier because of the necessity to have your laptop and iPad on person while travelling.”
Jet Airways said, in a statement, passengers should ensure that restricted devices are carried in check-in baggage at the point-of-origin airport in India to avoid inconvenience.
“The airline will not be responsible to provide/ensure storage of the device and its subsequent repatriation in the event of the failure of the guest to comply with the regulations, which is likely to result in the guest being denied boarding at the point of transit and/or having to surrender the device to the authorities at that airport,” Jet Airways added.
Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters