Monday, October 24, 2016

Regional Connectivity: Aviation's next big frontier

by Soumen Mukherjee

This article was first published on Mukherjee's LinkedIn profile.

With big metro airports getting increasingly saturated, it pose a threat to derail the hyper growth (above 20%) that the Indian airline industry currently experiencing. For long air travel in India has remained restricted primarily between metro cities with few key inter-metro routes occupying the lion-share of airlines capacity for example the Delhi-Mumbai and it is the world's sixth largest domestic sector in terms of deployed capacity in 2016. This time government is right in its emphasis on tier-2, tier-3 cities where the next round of growth would come from. India's smaller cities have so far remained neglected with very little connectivity that too mostly to nearby state capitals, now with new unconventional routes between tier-2 and tier-3 cities being opened up it would write a new chapter in India's aviation growth story.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Air India's non-stop service forces Etihad to scale down San Francisco operation

by Soumen Mukherjee

When the US3 carriers are engaged in a bitter rhetoric against the MEB3 carrier on their offering of one-stop sixth freedom flights via Middle Eastern hubs killing the prospect of non-stop point to point US-India flights. The Indian national carrier Air India seems to have hit the bull's eye with its non-stop services to United States. Air India is now operating 30 weekly flights from four US gateways (Chicago, Newark, New York and San Francisco) which is only going to increase with Washington Dulles service being introduced in spring 2017. In fact it is known to have plans for Los Angeles too. Air India's non-stop San Francisco service is getting wide patronage even at a premium charge over one-stop offerings by other airlines in Gulf or in Europe. Air India's decision to double its San Francisco capacity from November is now believed to be forcing Etihad Airways to scale down its own San Francisco frequency from early next year. The Delhi-San Francisco sector had the maximum number of passengers flying via one-stop flights from India in 2015 as it did not have even a non-stop flight for most part of the year. According OAG traffic analyser's report a total of 1,65,117 passengers (one-way) flew from Delhi to San Francisco via intermediate hubs which was the 12th largest underserved city-pair globally in 2015.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

September 2016: Performance of Indian carriers in domestic aviation market

by Soumen Mukherjee

Airlines in India together carried a total of 82.30 lakh (8.23 million) passengers in the domestic sector in September 2016. Continuing its dream run with above 20% year on year growth rate, the domestic aviation sector had handled 726.98 lakh passengers with 23.17% YoY growth during first nine month (January-September) of 2016 over the same period a year ago. While the MoM growth rate for the month of August was at 23.46%. Going by the passenger growth trend of the first three quarters of 2016 and the planned capacity expansion during the fourth quarter of 2016 (LCCs like IndiGo, GoAir and FSC like Vistara), it remains only matter of time that domestic aviation sector in India to record 100 million annual passenger for the first time in 2016. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Vistara starts Bengaluru and Guwahati flights from Kolkata

by Soumen Mukherjee

Today the Tata Singapore Airlines joint venture full service carrier, Vistara has commenced two new routes from Kolkata to Bengaluru and Guwahati and thus providing one-stop direct flight connection between Bengaluru and Guwahati via Kolkata. The airline is now operating over 500 weekly flights in a network of 44  routes across 18 destinations. With the launch of Bengaluru and Guwahati routes from Kolkata today, Kolkata comes at per with Mumbai in Vistara's network with four non-stop routes and ranks third in terms of overall operations with seven daily departures following Delhi and Mumbai. Vistara currently has a fleet of 13 Airbus A320-232 aircraft out of which it stations two in Kolkata, one each in Bengaluru and Mumbai while the rest nine are based in its Delhi hub. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Jet Airways moves further close to SkyTeam

by Soumen Mukherjee

India's largest carrier by international passenger traffic, Jet Airways is showing some development in its long haul network. The airline is upgauging existing Europe capacity by deploying Boeing 777-300ER. Better financial performance over the last few quarters fueled by softening of oil prices is believed to be prompting Jet Airways to expand long-haul capacity after really long time. The airline is taking back six Boeing 777-300ER from Etihad following lease expiry between August and November this year. In March this year, Jet Airways had moved its European scissor hub from Brussels to Amsterdam and entered into extensive codeshare partnership with three SkyTeam members Air France-KLM and Delta on European and trans-Atlantic routes. Now this partnership is being extended through Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. These moves are bringing Jet Airways really close to SkyTeam airline alliance. Jet already share close partnership with major SkyTeam members like Alitalia, Garuda Indonesia, Kenya Airways, Korean Air and Vietnam Airlines. Now, this will be interesting to see whether Jet moves further close to SkyTeam and outright joins the alliance in near future.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Air India rejigs Northeast operations from Kolkata

by Soumen Mukherjee
Starting from the winter schedule, Air India is restructuring its Northeast flights from Kolkata with triangular flights being converted to terminating return flights same as it abandons such routing on international too. The airline is also adding second daily flight to Agartala and increasing frequencies of Aizawl, Dibrugarh, Dimapur and Silchar route from Kolkata at the same time dropping the Dimapur-Dibrugarh route and the Imphal-Aizawl sector while the Aizawl-Imphal sector will still have two-weekly flights. Due to poor demands on these intra-Northeast sectors lead to suspension of these few services where Air India operates its 144 seater all economy Airbus A319 as of today. Bagdogra-Kolkata is the only Northeast route where Air India is scaling back to three weekly service compared to four-weekly during summer.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Jet Airways upgauges Europe capacity

by Soumen Mukherjee

India's largest carrier by international passenger traffic Jet Airways is all set to upgauge its Europe capacity. The airline has scheduled to deploy the huge Boeing 777-300ER on the Mumbai-Amsterdam route replacing the current Airbus A330-300 from winter schedule effective from 30 October 2016. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Air Canada expands India operations with flights to Mumbai

by Soumen Mukherjee

Air Canada had long attempted to set a foothold in Indian market since its first arrival in mid 1980s. But the earlier services were frequently halted due to poor economics of legacy long range aircraft before it has finally developed its niche with the introduction fuel efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner service on routes to India, one of the largest immigrant countries of Canada. The airline which had earlier operated one-stop fifth freedom flights via European gateways like London Heathrow and then Zurich, had launched the non-stop Toronto-Delhi flight in November last year. Following that in April 2016 it went on to launch seasonal service (October to May) between Vancouver and Delhi and now announces Toronto-Mumbai flight from July next year. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

SpiceJet commences Q400 operations from Kolkata

by Soumen Mukherjee
SpiceJet, the second largest low-cost carrier of India has commenced turbo-prop operations from Kolkata. The Eastern metropolitan city becomes fourth base for the LCC's Bombardier Q400 fleet following Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad. As many as three such aircraft are being stationed in Kolkata which will initially operate to six routes from the city. The airline is adding three new destinations Aizawl, Gorakhpur and Silchar from 4 October 2016 taking the network size to 39 cities in India. While Aizawl, Gorakhpur and Vizag would be complete new route for SpiceJet from Kolkata, Bagdogra and Guwahati are two routes where it already run flights with mainline jets. With these SpiceJet is scaling up its network in Northeast India where its presence was so far limited to Agartala, Bagdogra and Guwahati. The flights to Aizawal and Silchar will further continue up to Guwahati before heading back to Kolkata via those airports therefore adding new CAT-II and CAT-IIA capacity. This is in line with the Government of India's policy of promoting regional connectivity. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Port Blair welcomes Vistara & IndiGo back to back

by Soumen Mukherjee
Today Vistara has commenced service to Port Blair with a direct flight from Delhi via Kolkata. On a first Vistara ventures out beyond the mainland India. The Tata Singapore joint venture full service carrier, which has so far added twelve aircraft in its fleet, is fast expanding its domestic network as Port Blair becomes the 18th destination in just 21 months of operations of Vistara. The Kolkata-Port Blair sector is believed to be a high yield sector specially during the autumn-winter peak tourists season. And Vistara has well-timed the launch on the day of Mahalaya which marks the beginning of festive season in Eastern India and the tourists season too. The airline had announced the Port Blair route on 23 June 2016 a little over three months from the actual service launch. And the level of advance booking is reflected in high loads, according to Sanjiv Kapoor, the chief strategy and commercial officer of Vistara, 98% seats sold out of the inaugural flight (UK 747) which is operated on its latest brand new Airbus A320-232 aircraft (registration: VT-TTM).