The recent launch of the Delhi-Madrid route will open up a panoply of destinations for Indians, not only in Europe, but also to South America, claims Pankaj Srivastava, Director- Commercial, Air India. Excerpts from an interview:
Q) Please tell us about the newly launched Delhi-Madrid route by Air India?
A) Only after evaluating the route between India and Spain, we took the decision to start this flight between Delhi and Madrid. I am very happy to say that our incoming flights from Madrid are already full. It is Air India’s ninth European destination in total and is the eleventh international destination in the last three years. The flight duration is nine hours, and would allow passengers to cut down flying time by four to five hours.
Q) How do you think this new flight would offer further connections to South America?
A) The Madrid flight would enable passengers to avoid elapsed time to South American countries. So far, the connectivity from India to South America was very limited. Passengers were either going with one stop or two stops to various places in South America. However, Madrid is so conveniently located to connect South American points not only logistically but also culturally, because people in South America also speak Spanish. There are a lot of old cultural ties between these countries. The new connection would allow us to carry passengers from India to South America over Spain. It would become extremely convenient for Indian travellers to now go to Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Chile and many other countries there. We are optimistic that it will do well.
Q) Which are the other international points you are planning to connect next?
A) Our next European destination would be in Scandinavia. We would be commencing operations to either Stockholm or Copenhagen and it will be starting in March 2017. Even in the US, we are contemplating new destinations like Washington, Dallas and Houston. We are looking at increasing frequencies to destinations like Melbourne, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The frequencies to Sydney and Melbourne will be increased from five days a week to all seven days. We are also thinking of connecting Tel Aviv, Kenya and Tanzania. We want to make Delhi an international hub, offering proper transfer and transit facilities at the airport with the support of GMR.
Q) Are you adding more aircraft to support this expansion?
A) Five more Dreamliners are going to join us very soon. Also, there will be an addition of three 777-300s. In terms of narrow bodied aircraft, we will add a total of 29 320s in our fleet and ATRs would also be coming in. Fleet expansion is ongoing and that’s why we are also expanding.
Q) How was 2016 for Air India and what are your expectations from 2017?
A) We had shown around Rs. 100 crores of operating profits last year and we are poised to show much more this year. This is because we are utilising our resources better and thus increasing the operational efficiencies. We hope that the fuel prices remain where they are. I am sure that year 2016-17 is going to be much better than last year in terms of results. I want to specially thank our travel trade partners and hope that they would be able to fill up the flight from Delhi to Madrid as well.
Connecting two cultures
“The Delhi-Madrid direct flight is a great step. Any direct flight increases the people to people contact, which excites people like us. We need to take this forward. The dispensable incomes are growing and people from both the countries visit each other and experience the culture of the other country. We, as Indians, who cherish our heritage, would like the world to know about it. There are many exciting probabilities and possibilities ahead, and we feel happy about it. In terms of aviation, India is the fastest growing market around the world domestically. It has to grow internationally also, which is happening and it is good. Everyone is pulling up their socks and working hard. We are the ninth fastest growing aviation market now and we intend to become third by 2022. I think it will happen” – Ashok Gajapathi Raju Union Minister for Civil Aviation Government of India
“Even in the US, we are contemplating new destinations like Washington, Dallas and Houston. We are looking at increasing frequencies to destinations like Melbourne, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The frequencies to Sydney and Melbourne will be increased from five days a week to all seven days. We are also thinking of connecting Tel Aviv, Kenya and Tanzania. We want to make Delhi an international hub” – Pankaj Srivastava Director- Commercial Air India