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New Delhi: Foreign airlines are seeking greater market access from India, in return offering a share of their onward traffic to overseas destinations served by state-owned Air India.

TAP Portugal, LOT Polish Airlines, Air New Zealand, Turkish Airlines, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Adria Airways - The Airline of Slovenia, Air Astana of Kazakhstan and Siberia Airlines, which operates as S7 Airlines, have initiated moves for code sharing arrangements with Air India.

Code sharing allows an airline to book passengers on the flights of a partner airline and provide seamless transport to multiple destinations where it doesn’t fly.

“We are planning several code shares over the next few months. Many are on the brink of being sealed. Some airlines are seeking additional rights which will require change in air service agreements," said an Air India official, who declined to be named.

Air services agreements, which are signed between governments, would need to be tweaked to allow more services or seats on airlines that ply between destinations in any two countries.

Turkish Airlines, for example, is considering a code-sharing arrangement with Air India that will allow the latter to feed European traffic to its non-stop flight from Delhi to Australia. It will give Air India passengers seamless options to connect with flights to north Africa and eastern Europe.

In return, Turkish Airlines wants more flying rights. The airline has sought seven additional flights to India per week, said Ali Genç, a spokesman for
Turkish Airlines, in an email from Istanbul.

“We have already informed our CAA (civil aviation authority) concerning our demands on our flights to India and we know the negotiations between the respective authorities of both countries are continuing. We assume that a positive conclusion of our request will be beneficial not only for Turkish Airlines but for the civil aviation industry of our both countries," Genc added.

Air New Zealand has a code sharing arrangement with Singapore Airlines Ltd which it wants to extend to India. Air India, which has started flights to Australia, wants to do a code share for its Sydney flights with Air New Zealand.

Egypt Air, which flies to Mumbai, wants to have a domestic code sharing agreement with Air India so it can sell Cairo-Delhi flights via Mumbai with Air India operating the Mumbai-Delhi leg.

With other airlines, Air India is seeking to tap new geographies; these include having agreements with airlines in Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

A spokesman for LOT Polish Airlines confirmed it was “analyzing potential of different forms of cooperation".

“Certainly one of considered forms is possible code-share agreement" with Air India, the spokesman said.

Traffic between India and Kazakhstan has historically been strong with significant corporate passenger flows from the oil and gas, pharmaceuticals and information technology segments. There are also a significant number of Indian students taking education and training across the Central Asian region, said Richard Ledger, vice president (worldwide sales), Air Astana.

“The code-share is for travel from the start of the IATA (International Air Transport Association) winter navigation season on the 26th October 2014. By implementing this code share, and placing the Air India’s code (AI) on the Air Astana-operated services between New Delhi and Almaty, passengers from across Air India’s network will be able to travel seamlessly to Kazakhstan," said Richard Ledger, vice president (worlwide sales), Air Astana.

Same-day connections to Almaty would be available from Air India’s domestic hubs at Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram and Kolkata," he said.

Code shares with Adria Airways and TAP Portugal will also help the national airline feed more passengers into its Frankfurt and Rome flights.

Air India, which flies 128 aircraft with over 500 daily flights and entered the Star Alliance grouping of airlines in July this year, is talking to S7 to feed its Moscow operations.

“They are the IndiGo of Russia and even though they are not with Star Alliance we are hopeful of getting an exception from Star for having a code share with S7," the Air India official quoted above said.

International traffic growth grew 8.3% in the year ended 31 March, outpacing the 5.3% growth in domestic traffic. Aviation consulting firm CAPA estimates international traffic to grow 10% in the current financial year, compared with 6-8% growth in domestic traffic.

“The basic point is, if code sharing and allowing code sharing on domestic routes makes AI more competitive, then it is welcomed," said Steve Forte, former CEO of Jet Airways (India) Ltd.

“However, what is AI getting in return to expand its route offerings? Allowing domestic code sharing to other airlines may give AI some incremental traffic (some of it AI is already getting), but it will do nothing for its own offerings," he said and added, “The foreign carriers should reciprocate, allowing code sharing on their flights to AI on destinations that are not being offered today by AI. This way AI can achieve route expansion without the operating costs."

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