India needs to scale up airport infra: Virgin Atlantic

Forum Gandhi Mumbai | Updated on June 25, 2019

David Hodges, country head India of Virgin Atlantic

The airline will restart its Mumbai-London flights from Oct 27

The airport infrastructure in India needs to be scaled up to meet the growing demand, according to David Hodges, country head India of Virgin Atlantic (VA).

Speaking to BusinessLine, Hodges said, “India is a great growth market, we have seen a 20 per cent growth since we were here last time.”

According to Hodges, the Indian aviation market is likely to become the third largest in the next few years with airlines such as SpiceJet, IndiGo and Vistara rapidly expanding.

Talking about the roadblocks for the Indian aviation industry, he said, “Similar to London, the airport infrastructure in India too needs to be scaled up to meet the demand. That’s the enabler for us to grow, where there is infrastructure, the industry will grow for India.”

Airports Authority of India manages a total of 125 airports, which include 11 international airports, 81 domestic airports and 25 civil enclaves at Defence airfields.

According to reports, between 2014 and 2018, the number of operational airports rose from 75 to 102 airports. The Modi 2.0 government plans to double the number by 2024. However, work of several airports like the Navi Mumbai airport have been stalled for quite some time.

Connecting to the world

Hodges was recently in Mumbai to hire employees for their operations, which is scheduled to start October 27 onwards. The airline will be flying daily on Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft between Mumbai and London Heathrow. The UK-based airline has been flying for 19 years between Delhi and London and will be marking their anniversary on July 5.

Indian passengers booking a connecting flight to the US will be able to fly via their latest addition, Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. Virgin Atlantic has ordered 12 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft worth $4.4 billion. The airline is expecting deliveries of those Q3 onwards.

VA plans to utilise their joint venture agreement with Delta Airways to expand their horizons of 200 destinations that Delta flies on. “We also bought a low-cost carrier, connect airways. So will be to destinations like Tel Aviv, Sau Paulo, Belfast, Burmingham among others. We are waiting for a few regulatory approvals.”

Jet Airways’ gap

VA had been in a code-share agreement with Jet Airways for a long time before the airline temporarily shut its operations on April 17.

“We had a long partnership with the airline and our plans were for growth in India. It’s definitely changed the dynamics, unfortunately as Jet left a gap in the market because the airline had a huge network,” Hodges added.

However, according to him, the partnership helped them understand the Indian market. “As we knew there was a gap, we knew what the people wanted and hence, we took the decision to fly again. The gap will gradually be filled by other airlines.”

Published on June 25, 2019

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