Airlines Upgrading Quality for Boom in Indian International Travel

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DELHI – Historically, India has often been treated as a low end market by international airlines, often flying older planes with fewer services to and from the country. That is now changing. India is now one of the fastest growing markets for international travel, and to woo the new breed of Indian middle class consumer, international airlines are upgrading their plans for the country.

Last week, both Singapore Airlines and Emirates announced plans to fly the Airbus A380, the world’s largest double-decker passenger airliner, in India, and Lufthansa made plans to upgrade their fleet with the new Boeing 747, which will also service more routes in the country.

“India is a market with substantial demand for super luxury, premium products,” commented David Lau, General Manager with Singapore Airlines (India). “We chose to go in for the A380 with suites for the India market.”

“Globally, India is among the fastest growing markets for international travel. Unlike the Gulf, it has a huge catchment area for airlines to fill their planes. Gulf carriers bank on Indians to fill up their planes. The fight is for the Indian flyer,” remarked an airline official.

Competition among India’s domestic airlines is heating up as foreign carries put pressure on the industry. Adding to the struggle, two new local airlines are also entering the country’s market: Tata-SIA’s full service operation and Tata-AirAsia’s budget airlines.

“Apart from a great product, we are going to provide fares that are 30 percent lower from current levels,” said Chandilya, CEO of Tata-AirAsia. India’s domestic airline IndiGo is also planning to reduce fares to maintain its market share amongst the country’s budget airliners.

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To remain competitive, the airlines are working to improve their services and offer a luxury experience for passengers. Air India, for example, will be joining the Star Alliance this July and has announced plans to introduce complimentary Wi-Fi for its passengers.

Not limited to domestic flights, India’s air passengers will also be offered seamless connectivity between international destinations, with Air India’s Star Alliance network connecting it with 28 partner airlines globally, and India’s Jet Airways joining Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways to connect 23 Indian cities with Africa, Europe and the United States.

As competition among India’s airlines heats up, it looks like the country’s class of air travellers will benefit as carriers introduce new routes, cheaper fares and luxury airliners.

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