New Delhi: Air India, the flag carrier operated by National Aviation Co. of India Ltd (Nacil), will replace several of its West Asian flights that offer business class travel with all-economy flights of its discount carrier in an attempt to reduce costs and increase revenue.
Business class travel has been declining globally amid an economic slowdown, according to numbers released by the International Air Transport Association, an airline lobbying group. Global travel on premium tickets declined 23.8% in May from a year earlier; economy travel was down 7.6% in the same month.
“There is hardly any business class required (in West Asia),” said an Air India official, who didn’t want to be named.
The carrier’s low-cost affiliate, Air India Express, operates 186 flights a week between India and West Asia and South-East Asia. The airline will increase its services to West Asia to make up for the flights Air India plans to pull, said a government official who asked not to be named.
Mint couldn’t immediately ascertain the number of flights and destinations involved in the route rationalization plan.
Air India has committed to undertake an overhaul of its business operations, restructure its massive Rs15,241 crore debt, raise funds through a public offering in fiscal 2011 and convert three out of four of its flights into low-fare services.
Air India and the erstwhile Indian Airlines were united under Nacil in 2007. The flag carrier continued to fly several sectors in West Asia and South-East Asia with Indian Airlines’ IC code. Some of the West Asian sectors will be now serviced by Air India Express.
Flights such as Amritsar-Sharjah, Lucknow-Sharjah and those from Kochi and Kozhikode connecting destinations in West Asia may be handed to the low-cost carrier to operate.
Air India Express will also return three leased aircraft from its existing fleet of 22 Boeing 737-800 jets. With the same number of new aircraft to be delivered by Boeing Co. over the next three months, the fleet size of the subsidiary will remain at 22. The discount carrier is also set to start domestic discount services from next month with 10 Airbus SAS-made A320 aircraft.
Ahead of Air India Express’ September launch of its domestic services, Jet Airways (India) Ltd said on Thursday that its all-economy service, Jet Konnect, would increase flights on domestic routes from 135 to 180 daily between 3 September and 1 October.
The additional flights would be those operated previously by Jet Airways with aircraft that offered business class seats, besides economy. Jet Airways chief executive officer Wolfgang Prock-Schauer said in a statement that the move was in response to “strong demand for Konnect services on these domestic routes”.