Regional routes get big on airline radars

The concept of regional airlines to promote regional connectivity is now taking shape as low-cost carriers and foreign carriers are set to tap this space.

The UPA-I government's concept of regional airlines to promote regional connectivity is now taking shape as not only the scheduled and low- cost carriers but also foreign carriers are set to tap this unexplored space.

Domestic carriers Jet Airways and Air India have planned out expansions for firming- up its regional routes. Even foreign carriers, such as Air Asia and Air Arabia have announced flights from Kuala Lumpur and Sharjah, respectively, to fly to various Tier- II cities - Trichy, Coimbatore, Kozhikode, Kochi, Lucknow, Nagpur, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.

The Indian aviation sector is bouncing back with domestic passenger traffic growing 18.5 per cent in January - September this year.

Cheap foreign carriers choose Indian cities that have specific needs or particular meaning to the wider world, said an airline official.

Air Asia chose Trichy because it is a popular pilgrimage site.

"Lucknow was attractive to ' Fly Dubai' because it is among India's fastest growing cities and has industry hubs for retail, manufacturing, commerce and education sectors. The Tier- II cities have good potential as they are populous and their residents have increasingly disposable incomes and are willing to travel," said an aviation expert.

Similarly India's low cost carrier, SpiceJet also has plans to operate on regional routes. The chief executive officer ( CEO) of SpiceJet, Neil Mills on Tuesday said it would spend as much as Rs  3,987 crore ($ 900 million) to purchase 30 next generation turboprop aircraft from Canada's Bombardier Inc.

"We see a huge opportunity in regional connectivity. We can tap Tier- II and Tier- III cities," Mills said. SpiceJet plans to double its fleet from the current 22 aircraft by end 2013, it said in a statement.

The deliveries of turboprop aircraft will begin from the beginning of the next fiscal. SpiceJet will initially purchase 15 Bombardier aircraft for Rs  1,993.5 crore ($ 450 million), Mills said. It will use the additional fleet to enhance regional connectivity in India.

India's leading private carrier, Jet Airways has said it will introduce services on nine additional sectors across India (all to Tier- II cities) with immediate effect. It will introduce direct services between Vishakhapatnam and three important Indian metros - Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad. It will also connect Delhi with Bhopal and Ahmedabad, and Aurangabad with Pune.

The government is also optimistic about aviation sector looking at Tier- II cities. A top civil aviation ministry official said some foreign carriers have sent proposals for commencing operations on regional routes.

It recently gave it in- principle approval to a Mumbai- based firm, Freedom Aviation Private Ltd to import six aircraft to start scheduled regional airline operations.

Courtesy: Mail Today