Wednesday, March 22, 2017

India business leaders plan to avoid Gulf carriers in flights to the US

Mumbai: Business leaders and companies in India say they are planning to avoid flying to the US on Gulf carriers so they can carry their laptops and tablets on board with them, even if it means paying more for tickets.

The US has imposed a ban on devices bigger than a smartphone in cabin baggage on flights from eight countries in the Middle East region including the UAE and Qatar.

"I won’t travel with those airlines via the Gulf anymore," said Asoke K Laha, the founder and chief executive of InterraIT in India, a California-based IT company, who flies to the US regularly via Abu Dhabi with Jet Airways and Etihad Airways in business class. "I need my laptop. I read books on the iPad."

He would opt to fly with United Airlines or with Lufthansa via Europe instead, he said.

In addition, he plans to ask his employees to avoid travelling via the Middle East, even if the fares are more expensive on alternative routes.

"All of them have laptops, iPads and they need to work on the plane," Mr Laha said.

India is a key market for Gulf airlines that they have been heavily focusing on in terms of expanding their capacity, as rising incomes are leading to Indians taking more trips abroad. With a population of more than 1.2 billion, India has enormous scope for growth in travel demand.

Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar Airways all carry passengers from India to the US via their Gulf hubs.

These airlines are likely to experience a negative effect in terms of India bookings to the United States because of the move, while other airlines "will get the benefit", said Archit Gupta, the chief executive of Atom Aviation Services in India.

United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Air India and Lufthansa are among the airlines that offer alternative routes to the US from India, which would allow passengers to carry their laptops and other devices with them on flights. Jet Airways, in which Etihad owns a 24 per cent stake, also offers flights to the US via Europe.
22/03/17 Rebecca Bundhun/The National