There seems to be more trouble ahead for national carrier Air India (AI) with Jet Airways launching daily international flights to Abu Dhabi from Pune, Ahmedabad and Mangalore with onward connections to America and Europe through its strategic partner Etihad Airways. It is the first time that Jet has offered international flights from Ahmedabad and Pune, the airline said in a press release on Sunday.
"The new services rolled out today (March 29) offer an enhanced air connectivity from India to destinations in the Gulf and beyond to North America, Europe and Africa with the carrier's strategic partner Etihad Airways," the release added. The airline will deploy a 178-seater Boeing 737-800 Next Generation aircraft for the new flights.
"Abu Dhabi is a renowned international hub and the introduction of three new flights from Pune, Ahmedabad and Mangalore to this airport would open up access to dozens of key destinations around the world," Jet Airways Chief Commercial Officer Raj Shivakumar said.
Aviation expert Jitendra Bhargava said, "Air India would be harmed the most as it flies to America, Europe and Africa and it will now have to compete with Etihad on this route." Low-cost carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet, which operate international flights, will be affected to some extent as well but they have fewer flights, he explained. "This is the direct outcome of the Jet-Etihad deal endorsed by the erstwhile UPA government in the face of stiff opposition from all Indian carriers at the time," Bhargava pointed out.
AI's low-cost arm Air India Express, which has been doing well on Gulf routes and is running its operations profitably, will also be adversely impacted as Jet would wean away overseas traffic from Mangalore. Jet's decision comes at a time when AI was working on its turnaround plans and Air India Express is inducting more planes to expand operations.
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