Brussels: India’s largest private airline Jet Airways said that it would start direct flights to Brussels this summer, launching itself as a direct rival to state-owned Air India on flights between India and Europe.
Jet Airways said the Belgian capital would be its European hub, linking up with Brussels Airlines to connect to other parts of Europe, North America and Africa.
Daily direct flights from Brussels to Mumbai and New York area’s Newark airport would start on 5 August, with another daily service from Brussels to Delhi and Toronto starting later in the year, the airline said.
It said it wanted to run up to 10 daily flights via Brussels to cities in India and North America, it said, and would seek government approval to operate from Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Chennai to Los Angeles, Chicago and New York’s JFK airport, via Brussels.
Only one other Indian airline, Air India, runs flights to Europe with routes to London, Birmingham, Paris and Frankfurt.
Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said the new flights would mean a million extra passengers a year for Brussels airport and a massive boost for Belgian trade with India.
Indians last year invested more than $1 billion (4, 123 crore) in Belgium, making it the third largest location for Indian money. These figures are boosted by the high-value trade in diamonds between the world trading centre in Antwerp and a growing market for cutting and selling diamonds in India.
Verhofstadt said Chairman Naresh Goyal was keen on offering passengers a sightseeing tour of Brussels instead of letting them sit around waiting in the airport. Rising middle-class incomes in India are expected to increase tourist numbers to Europe.
Jet Airways said it started to receive in Brussels the first of 20 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft. The airline already operates 62 aircraft, a fleet that is one of the world’s youngest. It currently operates over 340 flights daily and has a 35% share of the Indian domestic market.
Mulls rights issue to raise $400 mn
Jet Airways is considering a rights issue to raise $400 million it has said it needs in the next few months for international expansion.
India’s top private-sector airline is set to launch five new services from India to North America via Brussels by the middle of 2008. It announced it needed the money last month, in the wake of an agreement to buy its smaller rival Air Sahara.
“We are exploring a rights issue,” Vic Dungca, a company director, told Reuters. Jet executives were in Brussels to launch the airline’s use of Brussels Airport from August.
Jet Airways has about 86 million shares in circulation at present and the new finance plan would involve it issuing a further 20 to 25 million, Dungca said.
“We don’t want to issue so many shares at the current prevailing price,” he said, adding the company was confident its shares would rise.
“You really have to get the chemistry right ... We also like our shareholding to be diversified,” he said.
Jet Airways is working with seven to eight investment banks that had advised the company before its flotation in 2005.
Within a year of the first service, Jet Airways wants to add three further ones linking Chicago, Los Angeles and JFK airport in New York with the Indian cities Chennai, Bangalore and Ahmedabad.
Goyal said the company had no plans to buy a stake in any foreign airline as part of its international push, although it has a code-sharing deal with Brussels Airlines.
“We have enough to do for now,”