New Delhi: State-run carrier Air India, which is being merged with another national airline Indian, is looking to create a hub in Europe and rationalize its route structure by providing more direct services.
Following the footsteps of its private competitor Jet Airways, which has established an operational hub at Brussels, Air India is holding discussions with aviation authorities in some major cities of Europe.
“Discussions are going on. Let us come to some final conclusion and then we will let you know,” Air India chairman and managing director V Thulasidas told PTI in an interview.
The carrier, which already flies to several European cities like Frankfurt, London, Paris and Birmingham, “is now looking at other cities which can become our hub,” he said, indicating the new hub could be finalized by early next year.
Asked to elaborate, he said at least five to six daily flights would arrive at the European hub from different parts of India and the passengers transferred to other Air India planes bound for destinations beyond.
“But the existing flights through European cities where we are already operating, will continue. We will even add flights to these gateways,” Thulasidas, who has been appointed to head the merged state-owned carrier, said.
However, these operations would grow over the next two- three years as Air India inducts more long-haul aircraft, he said.
Through the hub, an airline can pick up, for example, US-bound passengers from India to the European airport and transfer them to their own aircraft for onward journey. Such two-way operations, called ‘scissor´or ‘hub-and-spoke,´ provide economies of scale for in several areas.
Thulasidas said post-merger, all flights of Indian and Air India in the international and domestic sectors would be looked into and rationalised, depending on the demand.
While daily frequencies would be maintained, curtailment on certain sectors cannot be ruled out.
“We will improve the timings and frequencies, avoid hopping flights and try to convert them into point-to-point services,” he said, adding that more international flights would be operated from major cities like Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Amritsar and Ahmedabad.
As part of this effort, he said international flights from Delhi would be Doe-linked from those operating from Mumbai. “There should not be more than one stop on an international route.”
Giving an example, he said the Mumbai-Delhi-London-New York flight could originate from Delhi after Air India launches its direct Mumbai-Newark service. Similar could be the case for the Mumbai-Delhi-Bangkok-Shanghai service.
While the Mumbai-Newark flight would be launched on August one, Thulasidas said another direct flight to New York would start from Delhi in the winter schedule. “We had earlier decided to start a Mumbai-Chicago service but are now considering a Bangalore-San Fransisco flight.”