Aviation insights in New Year

What will be the new vision of Tata and Air India? On the global front, will the cities of Europe and North America be reinstated? Should the international vision of Vistara be integrated? 2022 seems to be throwing a lot more questions than answers, says Gavin Eccles, Managing Partner, GE Consulting & Advisory.

Recently, the Secretary of the Tourism Ministry, Arvind Singh, mentioned 10 key markets for inbound development for the future of Indian tourism. These are the US, UK, France, Germany, and Russia as the traditional markets, and
Australia, Singapore, Spain, Portugal, Japan, and Korea as emerging opportunities. Seven are covered well with a mix of Indian carriers (Air India and Vistara) and flag carriers of the countries in question. Three are unserved (Australia, Spain, and Portugal).

So, is Air India looking at these connections? Madrid had been one of its routes in the past, but, with no date for return. For sure, Madrid invested very heavily in the link with India and supported a vision for inbound, even staging Indian movies in the streets of the Spanish capital. Will Iberia be interested in outbound from Spain to India? As for Portugal, TAP Air Portugal is presently in a restructuring process, putting some challenges on new international developments as the EU sets forth the conditions of a “bail-out”.

However, with the historical ties linking Portugal and Goa, could we see the new Mopa Airport with a direct flight from Lisboa and Australia? Qantas this week launched Perth to Rome on the new ‘lets’ fly direct across Asia to Europe’ route, mirroring what they did pre-pandemic with Perth to London. Is India on the radar? In essence, can the new Air India work with the Ministry to push inbound to India from these key three markets and sustain an Indian airline strategy to bring in the demand? In reality, they are markets unserved.

Abu Dhabi as a hub

Next up for analysis is Wizz Air and the Abu Dhabi hub. With the recent news from the Dubai air show on the massive order of Indigo Partners (the US fund that owns Wizz) of 102 new aircraft for Wizz (75 A321neo & 27 A321XLR), how many will go from the European operation to the Middle East base. Can we see a strong connection from this key LCC into India? Watch this space. And, the way Wizz Air works in making money on ancillaries (in a recent study by IdeaWorks, Wizz was making more than 50 per cent of its total revenue from ancillaries, whilst Indigo was making only 10 per cent). Also, it is ancillaries that make a low-cost airline profitable.

As people keep stating that corporate travel is slower to return than the leisure travel market, where does this leave the push from the IT-specific hubs of Bengaluru and Hyderabad, to connect with key US and European markets? United is set for a new San Francisco to Bangalore launch (May 22 start), following on from Air India with their 2021 operation on this route. Air India pre-pandemic launched a Chicago service from Hyderabad. Will it return?

Finally, we have had much speculation about the new long-haul low-cost, ‘fly pop’. Their website shows London (Stanstead) linking with seven Indian cities-a mixture of VFR and in-bound leisure with Goa and Kerala. It still says ‘coming soon’. Whatever the outcome, for sure, Emirates and Qatar will focus on India and bring the world to India and India to the world.

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