India’s largest airline by passengers, Jet Airways (India) Ltd, is set to become the country’s first carrier to fly to South Africa.
The airline is also entering into an agreement with Kenya Airways to connect to the northern regions of Africa, coinciding with India’s recent thrust to improve economic diplomacy in the continent.
Eager to start: Jet Airways is keen to start flights to South Africa ahead of the football World Cup, scheduled to start on 11 June. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
An official in the aviation ministry said Jet Airways is keen to begin flying to South Africa ahead of the football World Cup that begins on 11 June.
The official, who didn’t want to be named, said Jet Airways has sought the ministry’s approval to start non-stop daily flights from Mumbai to Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city.
“Earlier, we had a clause in the bilateral rights with South Africa which restricted flight for only one carrier to fly from Mumbai,” the ministry official said. “That was lifted some time back. Now anyone can fly (to South Africa).”
Jet Airways still needs a formal clearance from the ministry.
Right now, only Air India and South African Airways connect India to South Africa. Air India doesn’t fly to the country, but it has a code-share agreement with South African Airways, which flies four times a week on the Mumbai-Johannesburg route.
Code-sharing is a ticket-selling alliance that allows travellers to connect seamlessly to destinations on flights of more than one airline.
But there still is a huge potential to be tapped, both in terms of non-resident Indians and people of Indian origin as well as young Kenyans flying to India for studies, said analysts.
A Jet Airways official said the airline plans to initially use the wide-body Airbus A330 planes to fly to South Africa. He declined to give more details.
Another Jet Airways official said the airline has enough spare A330 planes in its fleet to start services to South Africa.
Both executives declined to be named. An email sent to a Jet spokeswoman remained unanswered.
Jet Airways covers at least 18 destinations in South-East Asia, West Asia, Europe and North America.
In the September quarter, Jet’s share of revenue from its international operations had increased to 62% from 12% in 2005-06.
To tap the northern regions of Africa, Jet Airways will enter into a code-share deal with Kenya Airways for flights between Nairobi and India, the ministry official said.
So, while Jet Airways won’t fly to Nairobi, the deal will allow it to sell tickets to Kenya’s capital city.
A London-based aviation analyst said the code-sharing deal made sense for Jet as Kenya is a big tourist destination and a number of Kenyans study in India.
The analyst, who didn’t want to be identified as he’s not authorized to speak to the media, added that Jet’s success in South Africa would depend on whether it can seal similar code-share agreements with other cities such as Durban.
“There is a lot of business opportunity between India and South Africa so Jet will be hoping to fill the front of the aircraft,” the analyst said. “The key to filling the back on a flight to South Africa, however, would be to continue the flight to Durban which has the largest Indian population of any city outside of India.”
About 92,600 passengers flew between Mumbai and Johannesburg in 2007-08, the latest year for which data is available from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. In the same year, 157,674 passengers travelled between Nairobi and Mumbai.