New Delhi: India offers an attractive opportunity for foreign airlines eying the demand for air travel, especially to overseas destinations, according to Rossen Dimitrov, chief operating officer of Air Italy, which launched operations in India with a New Delhi-Milan service on Friday.

Air Italy will launch a Mumbai-Milan service shortly and is in talks with full-service carrier Vistara for entering into an interline agreement, Dimitrov said. This will allow Air Italy to offer some of Vistara’s domestic services to its customers.

Dimitrov said despite the price sensitivity of customers, India offered a promising growth opportunity to overseas airlines keen to expand operations in Asia.

“More than 200,000 Indians live in Italy and in 2017, about 112,000 Italians visited India, which is 18% more than that of the previous year," according to Dimitrov.

He said the full-service carrier always paid attention to passing on any cost savings to customers. Success in a price-sensitive market such as India depended on managing operational and fixed costs effectively, he added. “In airline business, you never sleep. You always need to be on your toes."

Air travel in India has grown rapidly in recent years, backed by competitive pricing, expansion in airport capacity and fleet addition by airlines. Competitive pressures often deter airlines from passing on any sudden increase in fuel cost, the bulk of their expenses, to consumers, fearing they might lose market share. Dimitrov said airline business was a highly volatile business everywhere in the world and fortunes were likely to change quickly. That, however, did not deter European airlines from starting operations in India.

“You talk to any airline, whether from West Asia, Europe or North America. I can tell you that India is a very healthy market. There is demand. You just need to know how to do business," Dimitrov said.

Although Air Italy focussed on service between India and Italy, the airline will also offer further connectivity to other destinations from Milan.

“We are an Italian airline. We would like to promote Italy (to Indian customers) and India to Italians. But for those customers who want to continue beyond, they can do so. It is not our primary business but we offer that option," according to Dimitrov.

The Italian airline will operate three weekly flights from Delhi to Milan and from 14 December, there will be thrice-a-week direct services to Milan from Mumbai. Delhi is the fourth intercontinental route for Air Italy this year after flights to New York, Miami and Bangkok.