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Foreign carriers chart expansion as Re, economy turn tailwinds

Wednesday, 18 June 2014 - 6:45am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

They are expanding capacity, deploying A380s and introducing premium economy class to tap Indians travelling overseas

After a tough 2013, international carriers are gearing up to tap the potential of the Indian market with new products, services and fleet expansion.

Slowdown in the economy and depreciation of rupee against the dollar had impacted the overall market last year. However, with the new government at Centre and the rupee stabilising, the international carriers are optimistic about the growth in passenger traffic this year.

They are now introducing bigger products and are going for fleet expansion.

Singapore Airlines, which introduced the Airbus A380 from Mumbai and Delhi recently, is looking at an expansion of around 5% this year.

"Currency depreciation played a dampener last year. Now that the elections are over, there are signs of improvement within the economy with stabilisation of currency and growth in stock markets. All this will help in growth in domestic as well as international travel," said David Lau, GM India, Singapore Airlines.

Despite depreciating rupee, the airline achieved a healthy single-digit growth last year.

"We did capacity expansion six months ago, and we will add 5% more capacity than last year," said Lau.

Apart from Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Lufthansa too are likely to introduce A380 in India.

According to Lau, "Airlines are getting confident about India. India is the only country with highest connectivity for us. And we don't fly A380 to any destination. With so much happening in the aviation sector, only speaks about the growing potential of the country."

Wolfgang Will, director South Asia, Lufthansa, said,"We have applied for the approval of Airbus A380 which is another very important step for us. This is in response to growing demand in India. The purchasing power is increasing within middle class, and people are ready to spend money on travel."

Apart from this, Lufthansa is looking at introducing premium economy by end of this year, while Singapore Airlines is expected to launch the same by next year.

British Airways, one of the first airlines to introduce premium economy globally, said India is one of the biggest markets for this segment for the airline.

"We are one of the few carriers to offer premium economy class. We are right now refurbishing this segment with bigger seats, bigger screens, bigger selection of meals. India is the second-biggest market for us after North America, hence it's a real focus for us to strategically bring our new products," said Christopher Fordyce, regional commercial manager, South Asia, British Airways.

Sharat Dhall, president, of travel portal yatra.com, said, "While last year saw most travellers opting for domestic travel due to drastic rupee depreciation, more Indians are now making international travel plans with the rupee strengthening."

"As compared to last year, when we saw the rupee depreciate to over Rs 68 to the US dollar, the strong resurgence of the rupee to Rs 59 this year has kick-started a significant surge in overseas travel due to attractive savings on air tickets. We have seen an increase of over 32% in travellers booking our international holiday packages this year," said Dhall. 

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