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Foreign carriers returning to Indian skies as traffic soars

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At least three airlines have restarted their operations to Indian destinations over the last 24 months. Thursday, Delta Air Lines announced a non-stop flight to Mumbai from the US beginning next year. The airline had stopped its service to India in 2014. Earlier, in October 2017, Alitalia restarted flying from Italy to India and AirAsia X began its Kuala Lumpur-Delhi flight in 2016. Both these airlines had stopped their flights to India in 2008 and 2012, respectively.

This is apart from a slew of other international airlines that have announced fresh operations to India. These include Iceland-based WOW Air, which earlier this month said it would fly from Delhi to destinations in the US and Europe via Reykjavik; Air France subsidiary Joon, which will start its Paris-Mumbai service next month onwards; Italy’s second-largest airline Air Italy said it will start Milan-Mumbai flight from October this year; and Ukraine Airlines launched its service from Kiev to Delhi earlier this month.

READ | Delta Airlines to resume non-stop flights to Mumbai from next year

“Indian outbound is on the growth path and a lot of these markets are anticipating growth out of India and that this number will scale up as we go forward and that’s really the reason why we’re seeing this kind of thing happening,” Sharat Dhall COO (B2C) of online travel portal Yatra.com told The Indian Express.

India’s international air passenger traffic has more than doubled in the last ten years to 65.47 million in 2017-18 (April-March).

In 2014, Delta Air Lines stopped its service to India citing competitive pressure from airlines in West Asia alleging that the state-owned airlines were provided with government subsidies that distorted the level-playing field. “The announcement follows agreements between the US and the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to address the issue of government subsidies provided to state-owned carriers in those nations. The framework created by the agreement allows Delta to move forward with service to India, a market long impacted by government-subsidised Middle Eastern airlines,” Delta said in a statement. UAE-based airlines Emirates and Etihad, and Qatar Airways are among the top foreign carriers flying passengers from India.

During 2017-18, India’s international air passenger traffic recorded over 10 per cent on-year growth, a bulk of this traffic contributes into feeding some of the busiest routes in the world. A report released by British aviation intelligence firm OAG earlier this month highlighted how on the busiest international route in the world — Singapore to Kuala Lumpur — Delhi and Tiruchirappalli were the fourth and fifth most voluminous destinations for transit passengers.

“We have seen a number of tourism groups across the world wanting to get into the marketing activity targeted at the Indian customer with the objective of marketing a particular destination to Indians. That’s where airlines are also seeing that there’s a potential of Indian outbound travelers for many of these places and that’s how some of these routes are being reinstated and new routes are being added,” Dhall said.


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