>Gulf carriers take on desi budget airlines – Times of India

Posted on February 4, 2011 by

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NEW DELHI: As more Indian budget carriers get ready to fly overseas from this year, especially to Gulf, international full service airlines are gearing up to meet their challenge. Etihad, UAE’s luxury national airline, plans to counter the challenge by having all-economy class flights between its hub Abu Dhabi and Indian cities on sectors where LCCs could dominate. What’s more, the airline says it will offer “competitive” fares with the LCCs and offer free meals along with inflight entertainment (IFE)-something that most LCCs don’t boast of.

Apart from this, Etihad CEO James Hogan said here on Thursday that the airline is requesting for permission to have code share on domestic Indian routes with Indian carriers. A team of airline officials will meet aviation ministry officials with request for more cities to be served in India.

“We are allowed to have code share with Indian carriers on routes that both of us may be serving but not for domestic routes. We are requesting the government to allow this as that would allow passengers the convenience of booking one ticket between anywhere in the world via Abu Dhabi and any Indian city on global distribution system. So on one ticket a person can fly from Abu Dhabi to an Indian city like Patna by catching an Indian carrier after landing in Delhi or Mumbai on our flight. Travel would become seamless on code share on domestic Indian routes,” Hogan said.

Almost all Gulf carriers fill up their huge fleet of wide body aircraft that fly to all parts of the world from their hubs their by picking up traffic from as many Indian cities as possible. Almost 60-90% of Indians flying Gulf carriers are transit passengers between India and Europe, America, Africa and even Australia. But with pure Indian LCCs like IndiGo and SpiceJet and budget avatars of Jet, Kingfisher and AI targeting the India-Gulf routes in a big way, the fight for the 30-40% passengers flying just between India and Middle East is hotting up.

“There is huge religious; visiting friends and relatives; business and worker traffic between India and Gulf. We fly to eight Indian cities. Flights to Calicut and Trivandrum are all economy. The competition from LCCs is welcome and we are ready for it. All-economy flights can be put on more cities where budget LCCs can become market leaders at competitive rates with free meals and IFE,” Hogan said.

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