Flight Plan

More flights, more often

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on March 10, 2018


Not just better connectivity, many airlines are also promising increased frequency of flights in 2016, writes Ashwini Phadnis

It looks like domestic air travellers will be spoilt for choice in 2016. From the over six-decade-old Air India to the new kid on the block Vistara, all have plans to not only add more aircraft but also offer passengers increased frequency and connectivity. Also, a lot more in-flight entertainment choices are expected to come onboard this year.

Air India plans to induct over 30 aircraft into its fleet, a mix of narrow body aircraft and turboprops for the domestic market. Senior AI officials said the new inductions are meant to ensure that the carrier is able to enhance regional connectivity and improve the quality of in-flight experience for passengers.

The Maharaja, which started a three-times-a-week flight linking Mumbai with Surat and Gwalior, now plans to link Delhi with Gorakhpur with six flights a week from January 15.

Vistara has plans to add four more aircraft during 2016 which will allow it to fly to new destinations and also increase the frequency of its flights.  “This will allow us to enhance connectivity to destinations that are important for domestic as well as overseas travellers to India,” a Vistara spokesman told BusinessLine. Vistara took to the skies on January 9, 2015.

Vistara is planning to give its customers a new flying experience. “By early next year, the entire Vistara fleet will incorporate the most advanced in-flight entertainment system of wireless streaming for highly engaging content across all cabins,” the spokesman said.

At the same time, premier class flyers can also look forward to a new experience on the ground. “We are also looking forward to the launch of Vistara’s very own signature lounge at T3 in Delhi,” the spokesman added.

SpiceJet, which got a new lease of life in January 2015 with Ajay Singh coming on board, also has plans of adding three-four aircraft during the year.

“We plan to go up to a narrow body fleet of 30-31 aircraft in 2016, up from 27 now. We will look to add flights to existing stations and offer a greater choice to passengers in 2016,” said Kiran  Koteshwar, the airline’s Chief Financial Officer. IndiGo, AirAsia India and Jet Airways did not respond to questions about their plans for 2016.

Changi is in the air

Flyers from Jaipur and Ahmedabad can look forward to an international shopping experience in 2016. This follows India entering into a government to government agreement for the operation and management of the two airports to be handed over to Changi, the Singapore-based airport operator. Changi is expected to come on board from April next year. Changi Airport is the world’s seventh-busiest airport for international traffic.  It served a record 54.1 million passengers in 2014. 

Delhi may get cheaper

Flying into and out of Delhi is also likely to become cheaper in 2016.

This follows the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) ordering a 93 per cent reduction in airport charges.

However, the reduced charges will not be implemented till the appeals on an earlier rate order are settled by the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority Appellate Tribunal (AERAAT). According to AERA, the new charges will be applicable from January 2016 to March 2019 once the appeals are disposed of by AERAAT.

As per the new AERA order, while no user development (UDF) fee will be charged from both domestic and international passengers arriving into the airport, a UDF of ₹10 will be charged from domestic and ₹45 from international passengers departing from it.

At present, Delhi International Airport Ltd levies ₹275-550 as UDF on each departing passenger and ₹233-466 on each arriving flier on domestic flights. International passengers departing pay ₹635-1,270 while those arriving pay ₹518-1,048 as UDF.

The airport in Delhi is managed by Delhi International  Airport Limited,  a joint venture between the state-owned Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the GMR group.

New terminals

In a move to bring more towns on the flying map, the AAI is planning to have a new passenger terminal building at Khajuraho airport up and running during the year. It also aims to do the bhoomi-pujan for the new airport terminal at Port Blair.

In the positive news for international travellers, Air India is planning to expand its global reach with Ashok Gajapathi Raju, the Union Civil Aviation Minister, announcing that Air India is planning to fly to Washington D.C. in 2016.

Officials said plans are also afoot to operate flights to Barcelona and Madrid.

Another not-so-good news for international travellers from India is that from March next year, Jet Airways will shift its hub in Brussels to Amsterdam, a move which will see the airline stop operating flights from India to Newark (New York).  

One more dampener for flyers could be the proposed levy of 2 per cent cess on domestic and international tickets on all routes other than Cat IIA which is expected to come into force sometime in the new year.

Routes connecting airports in the North Eastern region, Jammu & Kashmir, Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep are generally known as CAT IIA routes.

The approximately ₹1,500 crore which the Centre expects to collect annually through the cess will be used to boost regional air connectivity by providing subsidy to operators on these routes.

Published on December 29, 2015

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