Airlines line up new flights as govt allows regular international ops

Indian customers will have wider travel options as airlines introduce new flights from the end of March.

While Malaysian Airlines and Turkish Airlines are resuming passenger flights to India after a gap of two years, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa Group will scale up their existing service in a graded manner in the summer schedule.

Emirates, the largest foreign airline operating in India, too, is looking to restore its pre-Covid-19 schedule of 172 flights per week.

This comes as the civil aviation ministry announced the resumption of scheduled international flights from March 27.

“Malaysia Airlines will steadily increase capacity to the cities we operate in — Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, and Hyderabad — based on demand. We are looking to achieve approximately 70 per cent of our overall pre-Covid-19 capacity by the end of 2022,” the airline said in a statement.

Turkish Airlines is resuming its daily service to Mumbai and Delhi and offering one to two nights of free hotel accommodation in Istanbul for passengers with lengthy transit time.

Prior to the pandemic, India had direct air connectivity with around 60 countries.

At present, there are air transport bubble agreements with 37 countries.

While the bubble arrangements allow for scheduled flights, there are restrictions on capacity and the sale of tickets to onward destinations.

The exception is Sharjah, which has more flights at present than pre-pandemic.

This will change and Sharjah, too, will see a reduction in flights with the start of scheduled international flights from March 27.

“We are cautiously ramping up flights,” said a Lufthansa executive.

Currently, Lufthansa and Swiss operate 22 flights per week to India and this will progressively increase to 42 between July and October.

The airline will resume flying to Chennai from May.

Similarly, Air France-KLM will increase weekly flights from 17 to 30 from May.

Airline executives said the increase in flights in summer will be based on market demand.

Expansion of services also depends on the availability of aircraft and crew.

“The restart of scheduled international operations does provide opportunities for further expansion.

“We are evaluating options and working on additional flights,” said a spokesperson for Vistara.

In Air India, the commercial department is working on the summer schedule, said an executive.

It is the largest airline on international routes and had 616 weekly flights in the winter schedule of 2019.

In addition to market demand, airlines will also have to factor in health and regulatory conditions.

For instance, Hong Kong continues to impose travel and quarantine restrictions on arriving passengers as it struggles to come out of the pandemic.

“We are committed to serving our customers from India and are optimistic to resume operations from the country.

“The commencement of our services are subject to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government’s travel restrictions, owing to the emergence of the Omicron variant,” Cathay Pacific Airways said in a statement.

India had direct air connectivity with around 60 countries before the pandemic

Domestic and foreign airlines offered 4,178 flights per week (597 flights daily) on international routes in winter schedule of 2019

Around 85 foreign airlines operated to and from India in 2019

On Tuesday, there were 290 international departures

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