Mumbai: Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, controlled by billionaire businessman Vijay Mallya, is preparing to launch its global operations in September. Besides the US, the Bangalore-headquartered carrier plans to start flights to the UK, Singapore, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong — all in that month.
Flying overseas: A March photo of a Kingfisher aircraft as the airline tested its international arrival process at the new Bangalore airport.
Apart from its proposed non-stop flight to San Francisco from Bangalore, the first for any Indian airline, Kingfisher also has plans to fly to the west coast via Shanghai, a senior executive of the airline said. “This could be used as one-stop for our San Francisco flights. This will help the airline get more passengers” and serve as a break in the long flight to the US city, said the executive, who did not want to be identified because the launch plans are not final.
The airline is applying for permissions to fly through the Chinese city, he added. Earlier this year, after several months of seeking permissions and lobbying, Jet Airways India Ltd, India’s largest airline group by passengers, received approval to fly to Shanghai. It now has a flight to San Francisco through the Chinese city.
The Union government is starting to notify 13 international destinations Deccan Aviation Ltd, with which Kingfisher Airlines is merging, can fly, Mint reported on 11 July. The destinations are in the US, UK, UAE, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Maldives, Pakistan and Hong Kong.
The Kingfisher Airlines executive said that after starting service to six destinations in September, the airline would commission the remaining routes before December.
At last week’s Farnborough air show in the UK, Mallya had said Kingfisher would start the launch of its international services on 3 September with an India-UK direct service.
One of the reasons the Mallya-run UB Group acquired Deccan Aviation last year was that the low cost carrier completes five years of domestic operations on 26 August. Under Indian aviation rules, an airline has to complete five years of operations on domestic routes before it can fly overseas. Kingfisher Airlines’ own operations are three years old.
“We have secured two slots in London’s Heathrow airport. We have already taken delivery of two Airbus A330 type aircraft, while the third one will be coming up by the end of this month. Two more will be coming in August,” said Hitesh Patel, executive vice-president of Kingfisher Airlines.
Patel declined comment on the airline’s plan to have a stop in Shanghai or Hong Kong en route to San Francisco but said any one-stop operation would help the airline ease its flying costs by filling up fuel outside India. Aviation fuel costs in India are up to 74% more than, say, in Singapore.
Sreesankar R., head of research with domestic brokerage firm IL&FS Investsmart Ltd, said Kingfisher will face an aviation market that is slowing amid rising fuel costs.
“Since Kingfisher Airlines will have to fight against domestic and international carriers, it (will have) to opt for an aggressive pricing strategy during the initial days. This will lead to an immediate cash burn for Kingfisher Airlines,” he said. Until the first half of the last fiscal, Kingfisher Airlines and Deccan Aviation had registered a loss of Rs776 crore, besides accumulated losses of nearly Rs2,000 crore.
Internationally, leading carriers such as United Air Lines Inc., American Airlines (a unit of AMR Corp.), Delta Air Lines Inc., among others, have deferred flying new international routes due to fuel costs.