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International airlines see scope in India as aviation hub

NEW DELHI : Foreign airlines have always seen India as a market that feeds their hubs, but that seems to be changing with key foreign carriers from Asia Pacific seeing India becoming an aviation hub, which can be used to connect Africa and the Middle East from their part of the world.

Senior executives from Japan Airlines and Thai Airways said they see the potential of India becoming a hub but it may take some time for this to become a reality.

“India has the potential, I believe so. It is possible when one looks at connections towards the Middle East and Africa. While it is still early for a hub to be established, I think it is possible in the future,” Shimizu Shinichiro, executive vice president, Japan Airlines, told Mint.

It is worth noting that the government is working on a plan to develop India as a hub for connecting international traffic. The government is in the process of hiring consultants to suggest ways to make all airports in metro cities suited for transit passengers with an intent to reduce time for passenger transferring from one plane to another.

The stakeholders have assessed the practices at airports like Heathrow in London, Dubai, Doha and Singapore and are trying to put the best practices in action at Delhi with IndiGo and Air India as the lead carriers for short and long-haul connectivity.

The government has also in the past restricted any increase in bilateral rights to ensure that Indian carriers can increase their presence in international skies—that strategy has paid off.

Since covid-related restrictions eased across borders, Indian airlines have been seeing higher traffic of passengers flying from one part of the world and transiting via Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata for international cities.

IndiGo, India’s largest domestic airline, has seen a rise in such transit traffic via Indian airports on routes such as Dubai-Bangkok, Bahrain-Phuket, Kuwait-Phuket, Sharjah-Jeddah, Dhaka-Riyadh, and Kathmandu-Far East, among other destinations.

Massive aircraft orders such as 970 aircraft by Air India and IndiGo in 2023 and growing demand potential in India is adding to this change in perception.

Japan Airlines hopes to establish a codeshare relationship with the integrated Air India. “We have a codeshare with Vistara but it has been integrated with Air India, so we hope to have the same relationship with the integrated Air India,” Shinichiro added.

Air India, meanwhile, is in the global limelight as foreign airlines seek partnerships with the carrier in anticipation of its potential to create a large network of non-stop long-haul flights from India.

“We have gone from the ugliest guy that ever danced to probably the most popular, and many airlines are seeking partnerships because they see the benefit in connecting directly with the carrier from which most of the source traffic is coming. There are 37 million people in the diaspora, we don’t serve them particularly well. That is going to change,” Mint reported quoting AI’s CMD Campbell Wilson.

India’s passenger growth continues to attract global airlines, that see a business in the country’s passenger growth.

“India is always in my radar, in my network. We fly to a lot of Indian cities. There are a lot of connecting passengers from India to Australia, to Kuala Lumpur. Yes, there is potential. From India, we see a big signal sometimes even to change the aircraft from narrow-body to wide-body,” Chai Eamsiri, CEO Thai Airways, said.

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Updated: 16 Nov 2023, 12:29 AM IST

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