Tunia Cherian George

Mumbai, July 28

AIR-INDIA, awaiting fleet acquisition plan approval from the Government, is chalking out an expansion plan to increase its market share to a third of the total inbound and outbound traffic from the country. The national carrier currently has a 20-25 per cent share of this market.

"We had a sizable market share earlier, which we are trying to regain. Over the past few years, we have lost out on account of a lack of capacity as well as a substantial capacity build-up by our competition, especially in the recent past," says Mr V. Thulasidas, Chairman and Managing Director, A-I.

Under its route expansion plan, the airline will commence services to Mauritius from September.

Based on the availability of aircraft, A-I also plans to add more destinations in the US and Europe.

In the US, it plans to add Washington, San Francisco, and either Houston or Dallas in Texas in its route network.

The additional flights to the US will also increase frequencies to Paris and Frankfurt, the stop-overs for most flights to the US.

The airline hopes to fly to Washington and Texas via Paris, while flights to San Francisco will be routed through Frankfurt. Besides, the airline plans to increase the number of Delhi-London connections.

A-I also plans to increase its foot-print in the African continent. The proposed service to Mauritius will be extended to South Africa at a later date. Further, A-I plans to extend its thrice-weekly service to Nairobi (Kenya), on to Lagos (Nigeria).

Not to be left behind in the race for non-stop services to the US, A-I hopes to launch non-stop services to New York, Chicago and San Francisco when it takes delivery of the Boeing 777-200 LR, which is part of its 50-aircraft acquisition plan valued at Rs 30,000 crore.

The airline has recently strengthened services to South-East Asia with direct flights to Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok.

Queried on the probability of an increase in the fuel surcharge, Mr Thulasidas said the airline was monitoring fuel costs closely.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 29, 2005)
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