British Airways plans to treble trips to India

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Mr Willie Walsh
Mr Willie Walsh

Our Bureau

Bangalore, Nov. 14

BRITISH Airways plans to treble the number of flights to India in the next two to three years by adding direct routes connecting Hyderabad and Kochi to London Heathrow.

Mr Willie Walsh, CEO, who is on his first visit to the country, said India was British Airways' second biggest long-haul market after North America and the third biggest after the UK and the US.

Which should explain BA's ongoing £2-million country campaign launched after the campaigns in the UK and the US.

"Our intention is to continue to expand our flights to Hyderabad and Kochi, and we see plenty of opportunities to expand.

"You will see flights increase 30-50 per cent within two-three years," leading to a tripling of operations in the country, said Mr Walsh.

With 60 jobs added recently, BA has a 600-strong team in the country.

On October 31, it launched five-times-a-week Bangalore-London flights and increased connections to Mumbai and Chennai.

Mr Walsh, who became the CEO of BA in October, is in the country along with a delegation of three British MPs, senior BA officials, India brand ambassador Mr Louise Wand, business and media members from Londonon a three-day tour.

Bangalore fastest growing: Bangalore, with a high volume of fliers from the info-tech sector, was rated as one of the fastest growing markets for both leisure and business travel.

The airline was considering daily flights to the city after receiving a good response to the direct connection.

Until now, 20 per cent of BA's Bangalore passengers were flying to London out of Mumbai and a small per cent from Chennai.

British Airways is also counting on good revenues from fliers travelling beyond London a segment that generates 40-50 per cent of the business, said Mr Martin George, Commercial Director.

For the Bangalore route, the airline has come up with promotional fares 25 per cent lower than the regular fares.

`The world is waiting' print and television campaigns may go on for three to six months, said Mr Andy Stern, GM, South Asia.

Until last month, BA was flying 19 flights a week to the metros.

It also doubled the Mumbai daily flights to 14 a week, increased Chennai landings to six a week (from two) and Kolkata to three a week. It operates 35 daily flights to five cities.

This number is to go up to 42 in March 2006 when the Delhi trips are to be doubled to 14 a week.

Connecting with SaharaBritish Airways is in talks with Air Sahara for a range of tie-ups. These include preferred domestic partner status, frequent flier arrangement, lounge access and price coordination within the country besides the possibility of code sharing and feed access internationally, according to Mr Walsh.

The two have signed an MoU, but a full-scale commercial agreement is pending finalisation of talks. The two teams are to take up talks during Mr Walsh's visit.

Mr Walsh said he was aware of the changes anticipated with the talk of Air Sahara's selling its stake.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 15, 2005)
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