Indian airlines add flights


MUMBAI — Kingfisher Airlines Ltd., Jet Airways (India) Ltd. and other Indian carriers are adding flights to meet a gradual revival in air travel demand worldwide, airline executives said.

New flights are being started in sectors that are showing signs of a recovery, executives at Kingfisher, Jet Airways, Air India, SpiceJet Ltd. and IndiGo Airlines told Dow Jones Newswires recently.

“We have plans to open new routes including New Delhi-London and start (more) flights to Dubai, Maldives and Colombo,” said Prakash Mirpuri, Kingfisher’s vice president for corporate communications.

Mr. Mirpuri added that Kingfisher will soon start flights to Ludhiana and Pantnagar cities in northern India.

The carriers had cut capacity last year by reducing the number of flights and deferring delivery of new Boeing Co. and Airbus planes as a slowing global economy, rise in jet fuel prices and a 7% decline in passenger traffic in the year ended March 31, 2009, plunged them into losses.

Kingfisher returned 11 aircraft to lessors during the year, while Jet cut 25% of its capacity by grounding 5 planes in October 2008. National carrier Air India cut 30 unprofitable flights in the past year.

However, in a sign that demand for air travel is slowly inching up, carriers flew 36 million local passengers during January-October 2009, up 3.3% from a year earlier.

“We expect traffic this fiscal year to rise 4%,” said D.P. Singh, general manager for corporate planning and management services at the Airports Authority of India. The state-run agency runs most civilian airports in the country.

“The optimism (among air passengers) is starting to show. Airlines are starting to go for the right pricing and choosing sectors smartly,” said Kapil Arora, partner, advisory services at consultancy firm Ernst & Young.

Jet Airways, India’s second-biggest carrier by market share, plans to raise its domestic capacity through low-fare arm Jet Konnect, apart from starting international flights such as from Mumbai to Kathmandu.

“We have already added 6,000 daily seats on the domestic route in the six months from May and 1,000 seats on the international sector,” said a Jet Airways executive, who didn’t want to be named.

“We have seen an increase in demand in some sectors in October. We expect November to be the same,” he added.

The airline recently deployed a bigger aircraft on its Mumbai-Newark flight and added flights to Chennai, Patna and Raipur cities.

National carrier Air India said it plans to raise capacity to Riyadh, Muscat, London, Toronto and Paris.

“We also plan to extend our Delhi-New York flight to Washington because of higher demand,” said Jitendra Bhargava, Air India’s executive director for corporate communications.

Low-fare carriers SpiceJet and IndiGo said they plan to increase flights with the delivery of one aircraft each early next year.