New Delhi: Air India’s budget carrier Air-India Express will almost double its weekly flights from 61 currently to 117 from March 25, to meet growing demand for low-cost tickets to a clutch of international destinations.
India’s only profitable low-cost airline—it ended 2005-06 with a net profit of Rs1.5 crore on a revenue of Rs400 crore and hopes to end 2006-07 with the same level of profit on a revenue of Rs550 crore, with the depreciation cost of six new planes keeping the figure low—Air-India Express plans to offer flights between smaller Indian cities and destinations in west Asia and southeast Asia that are popular with both migrant workers and tourists.
The company has inducted six new Boeing 737-800 aircraft since October last year as part of the 18, scheduled to be delivered to it over the next four years; these will be used to operate the new flights.
“As we get more planes, we will either increase current frequencies or add new destinations,” said Captain PP Singh, chief operating officer, Air-India Express, in a phone interview from Mumbai, where the Air India subsidiary is based.
Kozhikode, Kochi, and Tiruvananthapuram, three cities in Kerala, stand to gain the most, with 22 new flights a week. Other beneficiaries include Trichy, a city in Tamil Nadu, that will now get three flights a week each to Singapore and Dubai, and Mumbai, Mangalore, and Amritsar.
The fares on the new routes, Singh said, would remain 25% lower than those on other airlines. He added that the company had worked around the problem of a shortage of pilots by hiring them from outside the country; 25 pilots, he said, would join the airline, increasing the number of pilots on its rolls to 94.
In addition to these new flights, Air-India Express plans more new flights from Kolkata to destinations in southeast Asia and from Jaipur, Lucknow, and Nagpur to those in west Asia.