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Business News/ News / India/  Emirates, Air India eye codeshare pact
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Emirates, Air India eye codeshare pact

New Delhi: UAE’s national carrier Emirates is exploring a codeshare agreement with Tata Group-run Air India as it prepares to expand globally with a record aircraft order, a senior Emirates executive said

Mohammad Sarhan, vice president India and Nepal EmiratesPremium
Mohammad Sarhan, vice president India and Nepal Emirates

NEW DELHI : UAE’s national carrier Emirates is exploring a codeshare agreement with Tata Group-run Air India as it prepares to expand globally with a record aircraft order, a senior Emirates executive said.

“Talks (with Air India) are at an early stage. They are a bit busy with the merger as well as other stuff. So, just initial-level talks are on, and let’s see how it evolves," Mohammad Sarhan, vice president India and Nepal Emirates, said in an interview.

Emirates looks to join hands with a strong and premium airline like Air India to operate in the subcontinent, he said.

Air India has signed deals for 840 aircraft (470 firm orders, and 370 options) that includes wide-body planes.

“You know, earlier, United and Emirates were rivals and now they are best of friends. We just signed a codeshare. Air Canada used to be a challenge for us. Now we are best friends. I think sooner or later we will be very close to some Indian carriers," Sarhan said. “Our aim for the future is to have a strong partner in India."

For outbound and inbound international traffic in India, Emirates is the largest foreign carrier and third largest overall after IndiGo and Air India, with nearly 10% share, according to October-December data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

“The best way forward (for Emirates) is (partnership) with a premium carrier. We do have interline with almost all Indian carriers, but it is not as good as codeshare, that will have one ticket, one fare, same baggage allowance, same service, and it is more consistent. We maximize the routes, we sell on that airline, that airline sells on us, we feed into them and they feed into us," he added.

It is not Emirates’ first attempt for a codeshare in India. The airline had signed a codeshare agreement with SpiceJet in November 2019 but it did not take off for various reasons such as covid and a mismatch between a full-service airline and a low-cost carrier. “Both sides didn’t activate the codeshare. We are a full-service carrier so we will only like to partner with a full-service premium airline, that makes sense and matches us," Sarhan said.

Emirates has been trying to increase flight operations from India since 2014, but has so far only been able to operate 66,000 seats for Dubai under the bilateral agreement between the two countries. Currently, the Indian government wants Indian carriers to expand to Europe and the Americas and to restrict foreign carriers by not allowing them to expand foreign flying rights.

With the growing aspirations of Indian airlines to increase overseas flights, Sarhan is hopeful that the demand for increasing bilaterals in the India-UAE sector will no longer be one-sided.

“The demand is big. The pie is big for everyone. We are probably missing out on some traffic but the Indian carriers are also missing out on this big demand from Dubai...I think the request is going to come from Indian carriers very soon," Sarhan said.

Emirates currently flies to nine major cities in India but sees potential in launching direct flights to Tier-2 and 3 destinations in India as well such as Surat, Lucknow, and Amritsar. The airline currently shares its bilateral flying rights with its sister airline flyDubai.

With a load factor of around 90% since resuming operations in India, the airline continues to see India as one of its top five markets, alongside the UAE, the US, Australia and the UK.

“We don’t see any slowdown in the Indian market. It is strong, it is growing. We are enjoying that and we are riding the same wave. We are also very surprised with the demand, it is very strong the fares are going up and up, we keep increasing the fares and the demand is still going up and we don’t see any slowdown," he said.

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Published: 26 Feb 2023, 11:47 PM IST
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