With India projected to become the world’s third largest aviation market by 2020, Air India is exploring a number of new destinations in Europe as part of its international route network expansion plans.
The airline at present is carrying out a feasibility study on two new routes – Barcelona and Madrid – which it may commence next year, provided that they are found economically viable, Air India Commercial Director Pankaj Srivastava said.
Speaking to reporters after Air India’s first non-stop flight to the Austrian capital arrived here from New Delhi, he said that the national carrier may look at enhancing the frequency of the new service to five times a week.
Vienna is Air India’s eighth destination in Europe, where it will operate three times a week with a Dreamliner B 787-800 aircraft.
“Air India is looking at some other markets in Europe shortly. We are evaluating the market in Barcelona and Madrid and if the results of viability study are positive, then the operations (to these two destinations) could start from beginning of next year,” Srivastava said.
Air India had announced the launch of non-stop flight services to Vienna from New Delhi following the Austrian Airlines’ decision to opt out of the route from April.
“The friendship with Vienna officials here in the first meeting had hastened the decision to start this flight and the decision was made in a rapid fire manner,” Srivastava said.
Airline Chairman and managing Director Ashwani Lohani had earlier this week said that the carrier was aiming to provide point-to-point connectivity to African and Scandinavian regions, where it currently does not operate, besides enhancing services on existing routes, as part of its aggressive network expansion plan.
“Once we achieve the set targets for this (Vienna) flight, it can be made into a five days a week service,” Srivastava added.
Indian ambassador to Austria, Rajiv Misra, who was also present when Air India’s maiden flight landed at the international airport here amid water canon salute, expressed hope that the new service would strengthen bilateral ties in a number of areas and facilitate travel.
He said around 40,000 Indian tourists come to Austria every year.
“We are not talking about the connection of India to Vienna (with this flight) but we are talking about India connecting Vienna to the whole of Indian subcontinent and to Australia and to many destinations beyond India in east Asia,” Vienna Airport Chief Executive Officer Julian Jager said.
A new study by industry body Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and consultancy firm KPMG has forecast that India is all set to become the world’s third largest aviation market by 2020 after the US and China.