Airlines seeking partnerships with Air India: CMD Campbell Wilson | Mint

Airlines seeking partnerships with Air India: CMD Campbell Wilson

Campbell Wilson, chairman and managing director, Air India. (Pradeep Gaur/Mint)
Campbell Wilson, chairman and managing director, Air India. (Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

Summary

  • The way India’s 37 million strong diaspora is served is going to change, says Wilson

New Delhi: Air India, owned by Talace Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of Tata Sons, has garnered global attention with foreign airlines expressing rising interest in partnering with the full-service carrier, as they expect it to establish an extensive network of non-stop long-haul flights from India, said a senior company executive.

“Many airlines are seeking partnerships because they see the benefit in connecting with the carrier from which most of the source traffic is coming. At present, 37 million people are there in the diaspora, but we don’t serve them particularly well. That is going to change," Air India’s chairman and managing director Campbell Wilson said at the 67th Association of Asia-Pacific airlines.

Air India operates direct international flights to 38 destinations including the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, South-east Asia, Far East Asia, Africa, Gulf, the Middle East and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc). International departures for the airline have increased by 21% this year following its expansion to destinations like Copenhagen, Milan, Vienna, and London’s Gatwick Airport.

After 67 years of state-run operations, Air India underwent privatization through a strategic divestment programme led by the government. The Tata Group emerged as the top bidder for the airline and its subsidiary, Air India Express, in January 2022.

While state-run Air India let the non-stop business be taken away by foreign carriers, the new Air India is preparing to get the direct business back, Wilson said. “Let us not forget the reason. Other airlines got so strong because Air India and Indian Airlines were weak. So, by providing a non-stop, quality, affordable, reliable, trustworthy, and non-stop safe service from India to key population centres pretty much anywhere in the world, we are pretty confident that we can drag a lot of that connecting business back to non-stop business," he said.

Indian airlines are expanding codeshare partnerships, as growth potential in the world’s fastest-emerging market, and the third largest in terms of air travel is supported by an aspirational middle class and rising income levels.

In addition to Air India, India’s largest airline IndiGo is also aggressively expanding its international wings in order to tap the direct flights on short and medium-haul distance, in addition to entering codeshare partnerships for flights to Australia, the US and Europe. InterGlobe Aviation-promoted IndiGo currently has codeshare partnerships with Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qantas, Virgin Atlantic, KLM, American Airlines, British Airways and Air France.

Air India has codeshare with international airlines such as LOT Polish, Egypt Air, Hong Kong airlines, Singapore airlines, Air Mauritius, Avianca, Sri Lankan airlines, TAP Portugal, Croatia airlines, Eva Air, Asiana airlines, Ethiopian airlines, Swiss, and Lufthansa.

Recently, the airline also signed an interline arrangement with Alaska airlines. This will allow Air India customers to avail seamless connections from New York JFK, Newark-New Jersey, Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, and Vancouver gateways to and from 32 destinations in the USA, Mexico, and Canada on Alaska Airline’s network.

For April-June, the market share of Air India and Air India Express stood at 20.3% in the overall international traffic to and from India and IndiGo had 17.2% stake.

The carrier, which is also overseeing a mega merger with Vistara, reiterated that it is working on improving its product and travel experience.

“We are recruiting new crew, enhancing and improving the training regime, lot of efforts has gone into catering, improving the quality but also changing the caterers, a lot of work on providing a consistent proposition when people fly with us whether it is the experience they get, service, product, punctuality. We don’t claim to be in the final steady state...there will always be more work to do I think but we are making good progress," he added.

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