Friday, January 11, 2019

In 2019, airlines will spoil you for choice with new destinations

The Indian traveller has never had it so good. 2018 saw the explosion of launch of international flights from India.

GoAir got permission to fly abroad, and it did, starting up with flights to Phuket and Maldives from so Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. The domestic market leader, IndiGo, also started to focus on international expansion seriously, opening newer routes such as (no surprise there!) Phuket and Maldives, but also connected tier-two city pairs such as Ahmedabad to Dubai, Muscat and Kuwait, Amritsar to Dubai, and Bangalore to Hong Kong.

The legacy international carriers were not far behind. Jet Airways opened up flights between Mumbai and Manchester, Pune and Singapore and Air India launched Bangalore to London. Air India also relaunched Mumbai to Frankfurt. I do have to mention the part where due to Jet Airways’ financial situation, they culled out a lot of stations from their south India network connecting to the Middle-East, a space IndiGo was happy to fill in.

International carriers were also excited about India. The biggest newsmaker in my mind was WOW Air, which promised Rs 13,500 fares from India to Iceland, and onwards to the USA. The only caveat, travel very light, and pay for everything else. Qatar Airways-backed Air Italy has also launched flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Milan, aiming at making connections from India to the Americas.
But if 2018 was a start, 2019 will see a lot more. Indian airlines, with all the new aircraft they are continuing to induct in their fleet, are starting to add a lot of tier-2 cities to popular international destinations. That trend will continue. We should see a lot more capacity addition to fly abroad from tier-2 cities of India.

All eyes are however on IndiGo’s long-haul expansion plan. IndiGo has just received their first A321neo, which is a plane that can fly further and carry more people as compared to the A320 fleet that has been their backbone so far. It has also signed up a codeshare pact with Turkish Airlines, signalling IndiGo’s flights to Turkey are around the corner. That would be a welcome move, because no Indian carrier flies to Turkey yet, and they have an excellent new airport coming up by March 31.
11/01/19 Ajay Awtaney/CNBC TV18