The upward trajectory of the global airlines in India market
The Indian air travel market is growing at a healthy pace. It is expected to cater to 478 million passengers by 2036, with the number of international travellers expected to cross 50 million by the year 2020. The increase in consumer spending is also extremely encouraging; in 2018, Indians spent USD 22 billion on international travel alone. Keeping these growth drivers in mind, the international airline companies to eye deeper into this prospective market, hoping for a rise in both revenue and demand. TravelScapes converses with some of the leading brand names in the international aviation business that are promising to create broader scopes for progression. Additionally, we highlight their contributing factors to the India market together with an intensification of their trade and presence in the sub-continent
“Our endeavour has always been to expand our routes and destinations to best serve customer demands”
Sanjay Kumar, COO, AirAsia India
According to CAPA India, around 800 weekly slots have become available alone in Delhi and Mumbai, generating opportunities for the existing airlines to increase their presence in these important markets. There is an impetus for stabilising operations and expand network at major markets amid reduced overall capacities and AirAsia India has fastened its seatbelt for the accelerated flight. A joint venture between the Tata Sons and AirAsia Berhad, AirAsia India is poised for major growth in the Indian subcontinent. The budget carrier is planning to take its fleet strength to 40 by this year and the next, as it looks to expand its domestic network.
“Our endeavour has always been to expand our routes and destinations to best serve customer demands. In resonance with the same, we are looking at adding about 18 aircraft to our fleet by FY 19-20, which is currently at 22. We are constantly monitoring and revising our network schedules, taking into account the dynamics of the India market and safe operational practices, to optimise and harness the best of our aircraft assets,” says the recently-appointed Kumar. “We are also looking forward to receiving the license to fly international soon and sprawl our grid beyond the domestic market. We do not see a codeshare relationship with any of the domestic airlines, for the time being, however, we do offer fly-thru flights and packages on AirAsia network, to allow our passengers to travel 135 destinations across international and domestic sectors.”
Tourism in India is a multi-million dollar industry, which is a testament to the enormous number of leisure travel bookings that AirAsia India receives, every day. “To promote tourism in India, we conduct travel fairs across the country. As one of the most preferred low-cost carriers, we urge flyers to visit these travel fairs and avail exciting offers we have in store and travel to their favourite destinations. We have multiple sales teams across the country targeting each segment of the travel agency market, tour operators, TMC and MICE. We have various incentives, programs, promotions that encourage travel trade to support AirAsia network,” updates Kumar. “We pride ourselves on being a guest-obsessed airline, which is also one of our core values at AirAsia. With our entrenched brand ethos of making flying accessible to everyone, we offer the best of amenities and fares to our passengers while investing in a modern, safe and efficient aircraft fleet.”
“Our medium term goal is to continue developing our route network in Asia “
Giam Ming Toh, Deputy CEO of NokScoot
NokScoot, a Thailand-based joint venture low cost carrier between Scoot and Thailand’s Nok Air, has been operating commercial medium to long-haul flights out of Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport since May 2015. And ever since the airline ventured into the India market last year in December with the launch of its direct flights between Delhi and Bangkok, NokScoot’s strategies and the route expansion prognoses for the entire Asia market have become more extensive. While there are already a few airlines operating on the Delhi-Bangkok route, NokScoot, with this recent foray, projects that the growing demand for leisure and business travel between the two cities, can support the big capacity it is injecting onto the route.
“Our medium term goal is to continue developing our route network in Asia and strengthening the existing routes we fly to. This includes China, Japan and India. We just inducted one B777-200 on 21 July 2019, bringing our all wide-body fleet to 6 aircraft. Another aircraft delivery in Sep 2019 and one or two more new routes will also further reinforce our Bangkok hub by providing customers with faster and more convenient connectivity to and from North and South Asia into Thailand,” Toh shares.
Currently, as Toh informs, the airline is also working on improving connectivity with Nok Air, one of the two major shareholders in order to provide greater connectivity to and from major domestic destinations in Thailand. Also realising the fact that India’s passenger market is inexhaustible and the country being one of the many markets that can potentially feed its network, the airline has a general sales agent appointed in Delhi responsible for engaging directly with the key travel trade partners in India. Apart from this, Toh adds that the regular promotions would continue through advertising in the travel trade publications and participation in fairs and exhibitions around the year while he is also optimistic about the outcomes from the roadshows organised by Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
Moreover, confident about how NokScoot would continue to create a niche for itself in the busy aviation market, Toh stresses upon the carrier’s USP and adds on saying, “NokScoot flies only Boeing 777-200 wide-bodied twin-aisle jets, configured with a total of 415 seats. The aircraft is bigger than those traditionally used by low cost carriers and offers an unprecedented level of comfort, with 24 seats in ScootBiz and 391 seats in Economy, supported by great fares for its valued customers. Additionally, our on time performance (OTP) topped off with a best performance in December 2018 when OTP reached 95.45 per cent on 330 flights during the month. NokScoot’s system wide OTP for all of 2018 showed the airline achieved an impressive overall OTP of 84.73 per cent for a total of 3,789 flight segments.”
“We haven’t just connected cities, we have also connected stories”
William Boulter, Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo
“IndiGo’s growth journey has been extremely enriching, with a lot to look forward to, with the increasing appetite for travel within India and internationally.” Boulter shares enthusiastically while further adding, “Over half of the expansion this year will be overseas, taking our international capacity from 15 per cent to 20 per cent. Our existing fleet and the new A321neo aircraft have enhanced our capability to reach cities in the Middle East and southeast Asia. Maiden flights have already commenced to Turkey and Saudi Arabia, with markets like China, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia on the radar. Our capacity for the quarter increased by 30 per cent compared to the same period last year. As we add more capacity, we see significant opportunities for profitable growth by increasing our connections to tourist destinations within India and abroad.”
As a part of its international expansion strategy, IndiGo recently announced its codeshare with Turkish Airlines and the part of the agreement allows the carrier to offer 20 additional international points on the Istanbul-based carrier’s network. “Twelve codeshare destinations beyond Istanbul on Turkish Airlines including Athens, Budapest, Brussels, Tel Aviv, Malta, Paris, Dublin, Copenhagen, Prague, Vienna, Zurich and Amsterdam are already open for sale. We do not have any plans of building a codeshare relationship with any domestic brand,” adds Boulter.
Understanding that the Indian aviation industry is one of the most dynamically growing markets, Boulter reiterates the fact that it has evolved in a big way and is here to grow, furthermore. “Making use of the situation as an opportunity, we are scaling up in size, also increasing our global footprint to boost mobility and expanding our travel agent network to service thousands of new passengers every day.”
Being one of the fastest-growing carriers in the world and with its fleet of over 200 aircraft, 1400 daily flights flying out of 56 domestic destinations and 19 international destinations, IndiGo has indeed made a mark in the aviation arena. “Today, IndiGo is not only part of a traveller’s itinerary, but an important part of the national economic fabric. Creating value for our shareholders and engaging over 25000 employees, we are on a mission to boost economic growth,” shares the confident Boulter.
“The success and growth of IndiGo is based on four key pillars- delivering courteous and hassle-free service, providing affordable fares, focus on our on-time performance and finally, the large scale of coverage and network that we provide to our customers.”
“We need to support our agents by working collectively in a partnership model”
David Hodges, Country Manager-India, Virgin Atlantic
It seems to be a really exciting time for Virgin Atlantic as the company resiliently grows its services to the Indian subcontinent. In 2019’s October 28, the airline is making the much-awaited and long overdue comeback to Mumbai with its daily flights between London (Heathrow) and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport. The route will be operated on a new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, with three-class configuration. This flight will mark Virgin Atlantic’s second destination in India since it has been flying incessantly to Delhi for over 18 years now. “It perfectly connects to all our US services, which with our transatlantic partnership with Delta Air Lines that covers over 200 destinations. In India, we have a partnership with Vistara over Delhi and Mumbai to connect to other cities PAN India. Watch this space, as we continue to grow our partnerships and services so many more Indian’s can fly with Virgin,” shares Hodges while commenting of Virgin’s expansion panorama.
With the airline’s recent announcement of coming up with a Key Performance Indicators around the aspects of ‘love’ to connect with all its stakeholders — from employees to customers, Hodges explains the considerable importance of engaging with the Indian travel trade for attracting more traction from this market. “We have great relationships with the trade and plan to continue that great tradition. I take the view that we need to support our agents by working collectively in a partnership model,” he adds and supplements with, “whether we contract with an agent or not, the team is always here to help so that customers get the best experience possible from the very moment they decide to travel.”
With unfailing endeavours to both the Indian trade and consumer-base for an extended amount of time, Virgin’s brand image corresponds fittingly to the overall philosophy of India as a country. “We are a customer-focused organisation offering personalised service and ensure that customers travel in comfort, style and with the latest on-board technologies. Once you watched the best Bollywood films in the sky, eaten the finest Indian food, interacted with our amazing cabin crew – a great mix of local and international – or used our Wi-Fi to speak with loved ones on the ground, we are confident that you won’t want to fly with anyone but Virgin.” A confident Hodges insists that one needs to experience Virgin’s services to know what he is talking about!
“We hope to further contribute to the economic growth of both countries”
Shinya Naruse, Regional Manager, Japan Airlines-Delhi
With both the IT and Finance industry thriving in Bengaluru, JAL is looking positive with its very-recent connectivity with the ‘Silicon Valley of India’. At the beginning of 2019, Japan Airlines (JAL) has announced its non-stop service between Tokyo (Narita) and Bengaluru with its inaugural flight scheduled for summer 2020. “As direct flights are currently not in service from Japan, the launch of this route will provide customers from Southern India a new option when travelling to North America. Other global corporations, especially those focusing on telecommunications, biotechnology and automobiles are also strategically based in this unique city that would heighten our business. Through the expansion of JAL’s international network, we hope to further contribute to the economic growth of both countries,” adds Naruse.
To expand its wings in the Indian domestic market, JAL recently entered a codeshare agreement with Vistara on February 26, 2019. “As part of the agreement, JAL will add its ‘JL’ designator code to approximately 32 Vistara-operated flights, each day across India, covering seven Indian cities, namely Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune,” informs Naruse. He further states that the codeshare flights will offer travellers with more convenient connections as both JAL and Vistara flights operate from the same terminal (T3) in New Delhi with a thorough check-in partnership, making connections at the airport even more convenient and seamless.
Working closely with the Japan Tourism Board (JNTO) to engage with the Indian travel trade, Naruse mentions that JAL is conducting joint product presentations to explore new markets for Japan and encourage our Indian trade partners to promote the featured destinations. “With an increasing purchasing power, Japan is an increasingly affordable destination to many. Hence, we are trying to identify new market segments. For example, we participated in a wedding seminar, which aims to promote Japan as a destination to wedding planners. This gave us a unique opportunity to understand a new market segment.” With punctuality being of utmost importance to a traveller, JAL strives to ensure to take its flyers to their destinations, on time. JAL has been named the ‘Most Consistent Winner’ in the past five years and the ‘Best Asia Pacific Major Mainline Airline’ in 2018 for on-time performance. In addition to that, JAL is also recognised as a world five-star airline with the ‘World’s Best Economy Class’ and ‘Best Economy Class Seat’, as awarded by Skytrax.
“We are in the process of evaluating flight operations in existing and new destinations”
George Ettiyil, Senior Director Sales – South Asia, Lufthansa Group
The German airline Lufthansa Group recently celebrated its 25 years of regional operation between Chennai and Frankfurt. Noticing its surpassing progress that is initiating new developments in the India market, Ettiyil shares that the airline company is charged and equipped to cater to the growing traffic and demand. “We are ramping up operations in the Mumbai-Munich sector and have upgraded the aircraft from an A330 to our latest A350. We are also looking at increasing the capacity in the Business Class on our flights from Chennai and Bangalore with a different seat configuration from summer 2020. Also, we have been trying to consolidate our network by increasing our presence in the places we fly to because as an airline, one needs to grow prudently,” he adds and continues, “Currently at the group level, we are in the process of evaluating flight operations in existing and new destinations, and consolidation in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai, definitely, is on the agenda. To fill the gap left behind by Jet Airways as a feeder airline, Lufthansa is scaling regular interlining agreements with Indian carriers to thereby reach the tier-II cities.”
Additionally, the Lufthansa Group has been in the forefront to promote and implement a new standard for the distribution of airline tickets, known as NDC (New Distribution Capability). It is an XML standard for an API that can be provided by airlines to enable modern retailing of tickets, so one day a consumer may be able to put an airline ticket into any e-retail shopping basket. This standard is still in its beginning stages but is gaining progressive traction in the India market. In Lufthansa’s endeavour to provide the best end-to-end experience in a customer’s journey, the company has invested greatly in the digitalisation of travel on our airlines. “A major focus was put on our App, which we can proudly claim to be the most advanced in user experience and the many services that can be availed digitally at the tip of one’s finger,” explains Ettiyil.
Positioning itself as a customer-centric airline company, Ettiyil boasts how Lufthansa believes that the best way of gaining traction is to put the customer in the spotlight. “This is why our customers are at the core of everything that we do, from marketing to product innovation to onboard offerings to the launch of new services. This focus on customers, experiences and stories – with Lufthansa as the premium enabler – reflects in our brand tagline, #SayYesToTheWorld.”