Ashwini Phadnis

London, May 17

AIR India (AI) is considering launching flights to the UK from more South Indian cities, the airline Chairman and Managing Director, Mr V. Thulasidas, has said.

Talking to Business Line on board the inaugural flight of the airline on the Amritsar-Birmingham sector, Mr Thulasidas said that AI plans to start flights from Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kochi.

"We have plans for starting flights from South India. However, not all the flights will start this year," he said.

However, it will not only be AI that is keen to operate more flights to and from South India. A senior British Airways official also said that the airline was looking closely at operating flights to Hyderabad.

"Hyderabad is a place of interest for British Airways and will most probably be the place where the airline will look to expand services," the Airline Director of Commercial Planning, Mr Robert Boyle, said.

The British airline that operates from here to Chennai and Bangalore has already announced that it would increase the number of flights operated to these cities in a phased manner . Commenting on the newly launched flight, Mr Thulasidas said that the flight had been very well accepted by the market. AI officials said that the flight was booked for the next few months already.

Meanwhile, AI is also looking to operate more flights in the domestic sector and will offer fares that are likely to attract both the upper and lower end of the market. The airline board recently gave the go-ahead for not only AI, but also the newly launched low-cost airline Air-India Express to operate flights in the domestic sector.

"We have not decided on the fares that we will charge on the domestic sector as yet. The plans should, however, take off soon," the CMD said. While AI will offer passengers the option of flying in a full service airline, the AI Express will offer price sensitive domestic passengers the option of travelling with the Maharaja.

Officials said that the airline not only plans to operate domestic flights but also have domestic legs of international flights, which means that a flight arriving from abroad and arriving in Delhi will be able to carry passengers to other destinations within the country also.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 18, 2005)
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