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Wednesday, Sep 08, 2004

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Fly to Britain - the easy way

Ashwini Phadnis

New Delhi , Sept. 7

HOW would you like to enjoy the luxury of being able to choose which of the two daily non-stop flights of a leading British airline you would like to board when flying from either Mumbai or Delhi to London?

Or, for that matter, have the flexibility of spending a few extra days in London secure in the knowledge that a leading UK-based airline will offer you the option of choosing any of the five-times-a-week direct flight that it has on offer to Chennai?

And if things go well, then perhaps those wanting to travel to London from Bangalore and Hyderabad will no longer have to toil over looking for connections and convenient timings.

At least three times a week from London to both the Indian cities for starters.

Seems like a dream, but may well come true.

For, these are some of the proposals that the British side is likely to put forward at the forthcoming two-day Indo-British air services bilateral talks.

The talks are scheduled to begin in London on September 16.

While airline officials refused to comment on what proposals were likely to be put on the table till the meeting was over, sources indicated that the airlines were looking at increasing frequency to several points in India, including cities in south India.

At present, apart from Air India, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are the only two airlines which offer direct air links between the UK and India.

While British Airways operates a daily from Delhi and Mumbai, apart from offering regular weekly connections from Chennai and Kolkata to the UK, Virgin offers a three-times-a-week connection between Delhi and London.

However, several other leading airlines, including the Dubai-based Emirates, SriLankan, Kuwait Airways, apart from several European airlines, offer flights from various points in India to the UK.

In the past, talks between authorities of the two nations broke down on the issue of proper slots being made available to the airlines from India at Heathrow airport.

However, during the recent visit of the Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr Praful Patel, to London, it was decided that bilateral air services talks would be held.

And although no one is willing to bet their last rupee on the outcome of the talks, there can be no denying that a successful conclusion could prove a major boon for travellers in India and the UK.

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