Air France-KLM will increase its passenger-carrying capacity between India and Europe by more than 25 per cent from this winter even as profitability remains one of the biggest challenges for its flights on this route, a senior executive of the airline said.
"One of the major challenges in India is the route profitability. From a historical point of view, it has always been a bit of challenge. Our flights are doing well. But the economical performance is always a bit of a concern," Welmer Blom, the senior vice-president (Middle East, Gulf and India), Air France KLM, told PTI.
He said India is a "strategic" market for airlines and the conglomerate would be expanding flight connectivity between Europe an India.
Jean-Noel Rault, the general manager (Indian sub-continent), Air France KLM, said,"If you ask about the commitment of Air France-KLM to the Indian market, as of winter, on the yearly basis, it would be over a million seats to India. Currently, we are over 800,000 seats. It would be over 25 per cent increase."
KLM had announced in May that it will start thrice-weekly flights on Bengaluru-Amsterdam route from October 31. It had also announced that it will increase frequencies on Mumbai-Amsterdam route from three to seven from October 28.
Similarly, Air France is also planning to increase its frequency on Delhi-Paris route from five to seven during the winter season this year.
Moreover, Air France will be using bigger planes during winter season on the two routes -Mumbai-Paris route and Bengaluru-Paris route - where it currently operate flights using comparatively smaller planes.
"For Air France, we would be increasing the capacity of the aircraft. In Mumbai, we would be putting an B777-300 aircraft, which has some 400 seats, instead of the aircraft which has 280 seats. Same is applicable for Bengaluru, from A330 aircraft, we would be going to (bigger) B777 in the winter season," Rault told PTI.
Overall, the Franco-Dutch conglomerate will increase its flights - which are connecting India with Paris or Amsterdam - from 29 currently to 38 by the winter season.
Air France-KLM is one of the top three European airline conglomerates. Under it, Air France and KLM function as two different brands of airlines.
In India, Air France-KLM had signed a codeshare agreement with the Jet Airways in 2014, which allowed either of the carrier to sell tickets of the other carrier on its website.
Blom told PTI, "Jet Airways was our Indian partner to expand into this strategic market. Unfortunately, the things have turned quite different than anybody expected. So, that is why we are increasing our capacity that much."
As Jet Airways shut down its operations on April 17 this year, the Franco-Dutch conglomerate had announced that it is ending the partnership with the Indian full-service carrier.
When asked if Air France-KLM is looking for any other airline partner now in India, Blom said, "If there are opportunities in the market, we will access them and see if there are possibilities."
This month, KLM started a campaign called 'Fly Responsibly', which indirectly asks passengers to fly less and be more environment-conscious.
"In some cases, railway or other modes of transportation can be more sustainable than flying, especially for short distances such as within Europe," the KLM's campaign says.
Talking about this campaign, Blom said, "We say that fly responsibly because the aviation industry is growing fast. It is a polluting industry so we need to join efforts in the aviation industry to reduce the (carbon) footprint and that is why we have said we want to be the leader in the sustainability."
However, he also said, "To become sustainable, we need profitable growth, otherwise we can not afford biofuels and the investments that we have done in reducing carbon dioxide waste etc."