Indian aviation market is “large enough to accommodate all players profitably” and irrespective of what competitors do, the airline is focused on its strategies, leading Gulf carrier Emirates has said amid Air India ramping up its fleet and operations.
Emirates, which operates only wide-body A380s and B777s, flies to nine Indian cities and operates 167 weekly flights to the country.
A senior Emirates executive said the expansion of Air India might push airports to improve their services, which will be a positive development for all other airlines, Indian customers as well as the aviation and travel industries as a whole.
“Air India flying to new international routes might also have a positive (effect) on Emirates. When a new route is operated by an airline, then that could result in increased traffic demand and the particular airline might not be able to cater to the demand.
“As a result, the potential customers will look at other carriers and that can have a positive impact,” Mohammed Sarhan, Vice President – India & Nepal
Tata Group-owned Air India has placed orders for 470 new aircraft, including 70 wide-body planes, as the carrier embarks on overseas expansion plans that will also help provide more direct connectivity for Indians to international destinations. To a query related to Air India and competition in the Indian market, Sarhan said that competition is there and irrespective of what competitors do, “we are focused on our strategies”.
He asserted that “the market is large enough to accommodate all players profitably”.
Emirates is bullish on the Indian market and is keen to have more bilaterals so that it can operate more flights. According to Sarhan, a Boeing 777 plane can carry up to 20 tonnes of cargo in the belly hold while an Airbus A380 aircraft has 15 tonnes of cargo capacity.
“The cargo space is generally full on flights from India. We also have dedicated freighters, with a capacity of 100 tonnes, scheduled to Ahmedabad and Mumbai to meet seasonal demand for uplift of cargo,” he said. The Gulf airline operates A380 planes to Mumbai and Bengaluru.
Emirates, which currently has 263 planes in its fleet and flies to more than 140 destinations, has embarked on a retrofit programme for 120 of its existing A380 and B777 planes. The programme is expected to be completed in 2025.
As part of the programme, the number of economy seats in both types of aircraft will be reduced to introduce premium economy class seats.
“A380 and B777 will have around 56 premium economy class seats, and the refurbishment of planes is on, and planes on some routes already have premium economy class seats,” Sarhan said.
Emirates’s A380 has 14 first, 76 business and around 429 economy class seats. The B777 has 8 first, 42 business and about 310 economy class seats