A flight taking off at Mangaluru International Airport near Bajpe in Mangaluru. Photo used for representation purpose only. File | Photo Credit: H.S. Manjunath
As international flights restart fully from Sunday, airlines are ramping up flights to cater to a high demand for a foreign holiday, which is primarily driven by short–haul destinations in South Asia, South East Asia West Asia and Europe.
Until now, travel to and from India was confined to 37 countries with limited flights under “air bubble” agreements. But from Sunday, six Indian airlines will connect 27 countries and 60 international airlines could provide connectivity to 40 countries. Passengers can also take advantage of cheaper connecting flights to a third country, which was not an option under air bubbles as they allowed only direct travel though some international carriers violated this rule. Nearly 54% of passengers globally take a via flight, according to air travel data provider OAG.
The IndiGo, country’s largest airline in terms of the number of planes and market share, will increase its daily international flights from 80 on Saturday to 120 and gradually climb to pre– Covid number of 170 flights daily. Its flights to Dubai will double from seven per day to 14. The airline’s only destination in Europe, Turkey, is likely to be opened for flights only in May. An airline spokesperson said it will also be opening new destinations.
Vistara will be scaling up its London flights, which it launched during the pandemic along with other long and short–haul destinations, from five in a week to a flight daily by May and will restart flights to Bangkok like most Indian airlines given the mad rush for Thailand — it sees the highest number of travellers from India.
The airlines started flights to Frankfurt, Paris and Tokyo in the past two years and says, “The demand across the network has been encouraging, especially on long–haul routes, and we are exploring possibilities to serve our customer better by adding more flights in the coming months.”
An airline executive said while high fuel prices due to Russia–Ukraine war “may hit travel sentiment, they will not impact our plans [to restart flights]”.
“96% of the searches are for the coming summer holiday season — with Dubai, Thailand, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, London, Paris and Amsterdam ranking high on the consideration list of international destinations. Furthermore, booking patterns indicate that travellers are increasingly willing to splurge on stays or accommodations. Many are also actively choosing slow travel leading to long stays when planning their first international trip post the pandemic,” according to Vipul Prakash, Chief Operating Officer, at MakeMyTrip Limited.
While Thailand is top most on itineraries of Indian travellers, Singapore is at the second spot, Saudi Arabia at third and the U.S. at fourth, according to the United Nations World Trade Organisation’s 2018 data. Sri Lanka ranks seventh, the U.K. ninth, Australia 10th and Canada is at 15th position.
A large chunk of this demand is handled by international airlines with larger fleet size and deeper pockets. Pre– Covid 19, only 37% of international capacity was provided by Indian airlines, though in 2022 this has risen to 42%, according to John Grant, Chief Analyst at the OAG.
Dubai–based carrier Emirates will return to its pre–pandemic frequencies of 170 flights per week to nine Indian cities from April 1, and has already brought back its bigger, double-decker, A380 plane for flights to Delhi and Mumbai.
The British Airways will be building back its schedule to the pre–pandemic levels of 53 flights a week between London Heathrow and Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. During the pandemic, it flew 20 flights per week. The airline also provides connecting flights to 30 U.S. destinations.
Virgin Atlantic, which has a daily flight from London to Delhi and Mumbai, will be adding a second daily flight for Delhi from June 1.
Lufthansa and Swiss International Air Lines will increase their 22 weekly frequencies between Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore with hubs in Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich, to 42 frequencies by July to get close to pre–pandemic level of flights. This also includes Lufthansa’s flights between Chennai and Frankfurt which resume from April 29.
The U.S. carrier United Airlines has curtailed its flights to India to avoid using the Russian airspace after its invasion of Ukraine and has suspended the Delhi–San Francisco and the Mumbai–Newark flights. It continues to fly between Delhi–Chicago and Delhi–Newark and is likely to stick to this plan until the end of May. It will also start non–stop service between Bengaluru and San Francisco from October 30.
The Malaysia Airlines will be operating 25 weekly flights to India, in addition to connecting flights to Australia, Singapore and Indonesia from Kuala Lumpur. The Thai Airways will have 35 weekly flights.
The SriLankan Airlines will be doubling its capacity to 88 flights. It will also offer connecting flights to the Maldives, the Far East and other destinations in its network.
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Printable version | Apr 27, 2022 10:45:48 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/as-international-flights-open-summer-holidays-to-drive-demand/article65262734.ece
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