Kingfisher Airlines, which is due to launch its services to Dubai starting June 25, plans to connect to the UAE from a number of cities in India during the course of the year, according to a senior airline executive.
The India-based carrier, which was originally scheduled to launch the Bangaluru-Dubai route on March 7, deferred it given the slowdown in air travel and declining airfares.
A daily Bangaluru-Dubai service later this month would be followed by a direct flight from Bangaluru to Abu Dhabi soon after, said Siva Ramachandran, Kingfisher Airlines' Vice-President for Global Sales.
He said the airline is currently evaluating options for connecting Dubai with at least three more Indian cities — Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram and Hyderabad, despite economic crisis.
"All these services to Dubai will start this year itself. Meanwhile, we also may look to connect Thiruvananthapuram with Abu Dhabi following that," Ramachandran told Emirates Business.
Kingfisher Airlines' move comes close on the heels of archrival Jet Airways' plans of launching four new Indian routes from Dubai in the next two months. Jet Airways, which launched operations to the UAE last year with daily direct flights to Abu Dhabi in April, followed by Dubai in August, recently said it is planning to launch flights to Indian cities of Hyderabad, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Mangalore.
Regarding the expansion within the Middle East, Kingfisher Airlines is weighing options for launching flights to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait this year, said Ramachandran.
"It is possible that we will start flights to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait this year itself, as part of our expansion plan for the Middle East. We are currently evaluating options for the same," he said.
He said the second phase of the airline's expansion in the Middle East will include starting services to "Doha, Bahrain and Muscat".
"For all this expansion, we need more aircraft and we need to ensure these evaluations are closer to reality," said Ramachandran.
Kingfisher Airlines has a total of 87 aircraft in its fleet, operating 438 flights daily to 72 destinations in India and worldwide.
Asked if expanding the airline's operations widely on an international level makes for a right move at a time when the global air traffic is increasingly slowing down, Ramachandran said: "It may not be the right time to expand operations. We are adopting a cautious approach on expansion."
Furthermore, with a clear target audience of white-collar workers and families, Kingfisher would offer "competitive" airfares in the Middle East markets, said Ramachandran.
With an ambitious target of securing "70-75 per cent seat factor" within four to five months of starting operations to the UAE, Kingfisher Airlines is further making sure that its yields (the average price a passenger pays to fly one mile) do not suffer, said Ramachandran.
"Yields are very important. We have to make sure our yields do not decline," he said.
Cashing in on the traffic flow, Indian carriers operating in the Middle East as well as Gulf carriers such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have of late either added additional Indian cities to their route networks or increased the frequencies to India.
While Jet Airways in April launched daily direct flights between Chennai and Dubai, after having increased frequency on the Dubai-Mumbai route, Air-India's budget arm, Air-India Express, launched direct flights to Abu Dhabi International airport from Tiruchirapally and Chennai in the same month.
In a most recent move, Emirates airline in June strengthened its position in India by adding 22 weekly flights to its current Indian network, thereby increasing its service network to 185 flights per week to 10 Indian gateways, up from the earlier 163 flights per week, over the summer and winter periods of the year.
The Dubai-based airline said that as part of the move, high demand routes such as Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram would be the "chief beneficiaries".
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