Mumbai: India’s domestic airlines, eyeing busy and lucrative international routes as the number of international air passengers flying into and out of India grows at around 20% a year, are busy sewing up what are commonly called code-sharing agreements with global carriers to help expand their reach.
Taking wing: Jet Airways recently signed a code-sharing agreement with Air Canada and American Airlines.
Code-sharing refers to a ticket marketing practice among airlines that allows carriers to share the two characters in codes used in airline reservation systems. On the ground, this helps customers purchase a single ticket on a journey that has two flights such as a New Delhi-Amsterdam one and an Amsterdam-New York one on two different airlines.
Jet Airways (India) Ltd has recently signed such an agreement with Air Canada and American Airlines, while Kingfisher Airlines Ltd has tied up with Air France, Emirates, Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
The state-run National Aviation Co. of India Ltd, or Nacil, which runs Air India, is in talks with member airlines of Star Alliance, the largest operating grouping of global carriers, for a similar arrangement. The firm joined Star Alliance, which counts Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, United, US Airways, Air Canada and Air China among its members, last year. Some 30 million passengers flew to and from India in 2007, growing 20% over the previous year.
Under the code-sharing partnership between Jet Airways and Air Canada, a passenger can fly between Mumbai and London (Heathrow) on Jet Airways-operated flights. He or she can switch over to an Air Canada flight for continuing the journey from London to various points in Canada such as Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Edmonton.
The passenger can enjoy frequent-flyer benefits on code-shared routes, and has to check bags in just once (at the port of embarkation) and have it delivered at the final destination.
“Code-shares are a very integral part of our international expansion, as with a code-share we can cater to markets and customers beyond international points we serve with our own flights and also make our presence felt in markets where we do not fly ourselves,” said Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, chief executive officer of Jet Airways. “The value of such partnerships is augmented even further with our Brussels hub.”
Through code-sharing Jet Airways gains access in six cities of the US, five cities each in Australia and Canada, and two in Europe, he added.
An analyst with a domestic brokerage, who did not wish to be identified, said code-sharing with an international airline would improve the brand visibility of domestic airlines, apart from improving connectivity.
“As an international carrier, we will have to ensure seamless travel experience to more destinations through such agreements. We are talking to more international carriers for code-sharing agreements,” said Hitesh Patel, executive vice-president of Kingfisher Airlines, which is set to start international flights by August.
Nacil’s chairman and managing director Vasudevan Thulasidas said his airline is in talks with Star Alliance members and is currently finalizing the suitable partners.
“The main criterion for selecting a code-sharing partner is the network fit. This means that the network of the two airlines should compliment each other and widen the common network. This leads to enhanced revenue for both airlines on a combined service,” Prock-Schauer said.
Prock-Schauer added that code-share partners utilize each others’ distribution strength to broaden their customer base through increased distribution.