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14 April 2024

Indian national carriers vow to fight back

By Joseph George

India’s national carriers Air India and its budget counterpart Air India Express (IX) has threatened to fight back and regain the market share it has lost to private airlines.

Many private airlines are making inroads into the Gulf-India sector with new routes and additional flights to cater to the increasing traffic – including many disgruntled Air India and IX customers.

Jet Airways, India’s most profitable private airline, has announced two new flights between India and Dubai to start in January. IndiGo, India’s fastest-growing low-cost carrier, will boost its services to Dubai by adding three more Indian cities to its Gulf-India sector within eight weeks. It is expected to fly to Dubai from Trivandrum, Calicut and Mangalore

A series of issues including pilot strike and staff shortage had resulted in a series of cancellations of IX flights between India and the Gulf nations.

According to reports, at least 168 IX flights operating between India’s southern states and the Gulf were cancelled in September alone.

A senior Air India official told Emirates 24|7 that all the cancelled flights have been restored.

“It was a very difficult year for us. However we have managed to overcome the difficult period and are looking forward for a much better year in 2013,” said Seema Sreenivasan, Air India’s regional manager to the Gulf, Middle East and Africa.

According to her the overall performance of the airline in 2012 was good. “Air India is making plans and efforts are on for a turn around, mainly through better fleet utilisation,” she said.

Air India and IX together operate about 300 weekly flights to the region, of which 180 flights operate between India and the UAE.

Earlier, the Indian Civil Aviation ministry decided to do away with national carrier Air India's right of first refusal on overseas flights and granted approvals to various domestic private-sector carriers to increase flights to the Gulf and Southeast Asia.

Kingfisher’s troubles added to the benefit of other private airlines. Earlier reports quoting the civil aviation ministry had said that IndiGo received approval for 63 new international services per week, of which 28 are to Dubai and seven to Jeddah.

According to statistics that were made available by CAPA - Centre for Aviation, the Middle East allocations were part of efforts to address the imbalance in capacity on routes between India and the Middle East, currently dominated by Gulf-based carriers Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways

“Indian carriers hold only around a 34 per cent share of India-Middle East capacity, and a smaller 28 per cent share of India-Southeast Asia capacity. Overall, Emirates has an 11.5 per cent share of total international seats from India, only slightly behind national carrier Air India (11.5%) and Jet Airways (12.8%). Air India Express has a 4.4% international capacity share, only slightly ahead of Qatar Airways, Air Arabia, Thai Airways, and Singapore Airlines,” the research institute said in its study.

Meanwhile, in an effort to restructure and regain its number one spot, Air India Express has been taking a series of measures.

It was recently decided that Air India Express will start functioning independently of its parent airline with its own pool of pilots for its fleet of 21 aircraft. In its latest announcement Air India Express said it would be recruiting 50 pilots, 30 commanders and 30 co-pilots within one year.

Reports quoting Rohit Nandan, Chairman and Managing Director of Air India and AIE chairman said that there are only 186 pilots against the overall requirement of 252.