Foreign carriers upbeat on India operations

Written by Shaheen Mansuri | Mumbai, Nov 21 | Updated: Nov 24 2008, 06:30am hrs
Despite the current downturn in the aviation sector globally, international airlines look to India as a breather.

To optimise revenues from India operations, carriers like SriLankan Airlines, Gulf-based Air Arabia and Sama Airlines are upbeat of securing high load factors by operating in and out of India . However, analysts say international carriers believe that the long-term prospects of the Indian economy are very strong and this will drive demand for air travel in future.

SriLankan Holidays, the leisure arm of SriLankan Airlines is offering tour packages from November 1 to January 31, 2009 by which a minimum of two adults purchasing a package like holiday in Colombo, holiday on the beach, holiday in Negombo and holiday in Kandy can be accompanied by two children, below the age of 12. These special packages include return airfare on SriLankan Airlines. It may be noted that in 2007, nearly five lakh holiday-makers visited SriLanka.

Air Arabia is also not lagging behind the race to secure load factors from Indian destinations. The low cost carrier recently announced its biggest promotional scheme on its fifth anniversary on October 28. The airline offered over 12,500 free seats to its passengers spanning across 44 global destinations including India. Also, the airline introduced Hyderabad-Sharjah flights recently which is the 12th Indian destination on its network. However, AK Nizar, head of commercial department, Air Arabia says, In our anniversary month, we have launched daily flights from Hyderabad to Sharjah to cater to Indian expatriate population in the Gulf region.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia based Sama Airlines has also launched its services between Dammam and Mumbai. The airlines has plans to add many Indian destinations to its network. The basic fare would begin from Saudi Riyal (SR)199 (approximately Rs 3,600 excluding tax). The airline is currently eyeing the Haj Pilgrims to enter the Indian market.

Meanwhile an analyst from a Mumbai-based broking firm adds, Domestic carriers are cutting down the number of operational flights owing to a slowdown in traffic and international carriers are increasingly trying to push their presence in domestic skies. To grab a stronghold in times of crisis.

According to the data available with the Airports Authority of India even though international passenger movements fell to 5.6% this September from 16% in September 2007, the frequency of international flights has shown an 8% growth this year compared to that in 2007.1