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Wednesday, Jan 21, 2004

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Air India plans to fly to Los Angeles, Alitalia Delhi-Milan

Ashwini Phadnis

New Delhi , Jan. 20

INTERNATIONAL air travellers are set to have more choices in the coming months for their sojourns abroad.

While Air India is looking at launching a three-times-a-week service on the India-Frankfurt-Los Angeles sector from the middle of the year, the Italian national carrier, Alitalia Airlines, is considering starting a six-times-a-week service on the Delhi-Milan sector from the end of March.

However, the new Alitalia flight will operate only if all the Government clearances are given by then. The airline plans to operate a Boeing 767 aircraft on the Delhi route. The Indian and Italian authorities successfully negotiated an air services bilateral agreement early last year, which allowed Alitalia to offer flights to a second city in the country. The airline already operates a daily flight on the Milan-Mumbai-Milan sector.

Alitalia is part of the alliance, Skyteam, whose members include Delta Air Lines, Air France and Korean Airlines, which operate regular flights to different destinations in the country.

Meanwhile, a senior Air India official while confirming that Los Angeles was "very much on the radar screen" of the airlines, declined to speculate on when the new flight would be launched.

"The new flight will be an AI operation and there will be no code-share with another airline," officials said. If the airline gets all the clearances, it hopes to launch the LA flight from June 1. The airline already operates to New York, Newark and Chicago in the US.

Similarly, the German airline Lufthansa, is also said to considering launching a flight on the Munich-Delhi-Munich sector shortly.

While Lufthansa officials declined to comment on the new flight, industry sources indicated that the airline is examining the option of launching the new flight.

Only the Alitalia flight is showing on the booking systems, which the industry experts said it meant that the airline is accepting bookings for the new flight.

Sources indicate that with the Government gearing for general elections, the implementation of several proposals including the decision of international airlines to launch new flights could get delayed.

Commenting on the decision of various international airlines to launch flights to India, the Managing Director of Amadeus, Indian Subcontinent, Mr Ankur Bhatia, said that the growth in international out bound could touch 7.5-8 per cent or even cross the double digit figure.

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