New Delhi: Government has asked Air India to look for a hub in Vienna apart from Munich in Europe to launch hub-and-spoke operations even as the national carrier decided to launch a Delhi-New York direct daily service from 7 January next year.
A meeting of top officials of two state-owned carriers, Air India and Indian, which are in the process of being merged, was held here on 2 August with Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel reviewing the action taken by them in the past few weeks to synergise their operations.
The meeting was informed about recent talks between Air India Chief V Thulasidas and Lufthansa Board member Carl Garnnet about the Indian carrier’s plans to establish a European hub, with Munich being one of the airports, sources said.
The Minister is understood to have asked the airline to look at other European airports as well, including Vienna, for which talks could be held with Austrian Airways, they said.
Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel (R) and AirIndia CMD V. Thulasidas at the launch of the new Air-India aircraft B700-200, at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai on Monday. PTI Photo
The move by the state-run airline to establish a European hub to launch ‘scissor operations´ to North America comes in the wake of its private competitor Jet Airways establishing such an operational hub at Brussels.
Air India, which already flies to several European cities like Frankfurt, London, Paris and Birmingham, is likely to have at least 5-6 daily flights arriving at the European hub from different parts of India and transfer passengers to other Air India planes bound for destinations beyond.
The airline has already decided to streamline its global and domestic operations and launch new services on several sectors including the Delhi-New York (JFK Airport) flight from 7 January next year.
As the public sector carrier starts inducting leased and purchased planes from the start of winter schedule in the end of September, it would launch a Delhi-Frankfurt-San Fransisco from October 27, besides the one to Los Angeles.
It would also have a flight from Mumbai to these two American cities via Frankfurt, thereby delinking the earlier service connecting Mumbai and Delhi to these destinations.
A large number of flights connecting Indian cities to the Gulf and Southeast Asia have been rationalised, with most of them becoming effective from the winter schedule. Both Air India and Indian used to operate on most of these foreign destinations earlier, besides competing with each other.
Several new flights would be introduced raising the total number of Air India Express operations from the present 130 flights to 200. These include new and additional flights from places like, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and points in Kerala among others.
For instance, AI Express would launch new flights like Mumbai-Port Blair-Phuket or Mumbai-Cairo-Tehran or even a Delhi-Tashkent operation.
The sources said the meeting was briefed about the synergies being worked out in several other areas of operation of the two airlines, including ground handling and equipment sharing.
They said synergy in ground handling would enable the merged entity to earn at least Rs50 crore a year in just five major airports including Delhi and Mumbai.
Meanwhile, the joint board of the two carriers met to review the progress made in the merger process and firm up the future course of action.