Air India to reactivate east Asia routes, plans operational rebound

June 21st, 2012 - 5:01 pm ICT by IANS  

By-Rohit Vaid

New Delhi, June 21 (IANS) Strike-hit national carrier Air India will reactive flights between the national capital and east Asian destinations like Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong in phases starting from Sunday.

In a mail to its travel agents and channel partners, Air India detailed its reactivation plans for the east Asia sector in which the airline recorded passenger loads of 80 percent on an average.

“We have decided to reactive flight services to these destinations in east Asia from June 24. Dates have been decided and we have informed our ticketing agents about the same,” a senior Air India official told IANS.

According to the official, services to Shanghai will start from June 24 followed by Tokyo from June 26 and Hong Kong from July 6.

“We were most badly hit in east Asia sector. Hong Kong was the worst hit. We had very good passenger loads and revenue coming in from this sector which mainly accounts for tourists and business travellers, that’s why reactivation of these services had become a priority for us,” the official said.

Currently, the airline is operating only 38 of its original 45 services. Among the seven axed international destinations are Hong Kong, Osaka, Seoul and Toronto.

The new schedule will be operated with the Airbus family of aircraft which will replace the Boeing 777s that were deployed in the region. The strike has grounded the bulk of B-777s-200 and B-777-400 aircraft.

“We will operate to Hong Kong with the Airbus A-319, to Tokyo with the A-330. Shanghai too will be served by Airbus aircraft,” the official said.

The airline also announced that it will cut fares by around 10 percent to Bahrain to shore-up passenger travel to and from the Middle East in the holiday season.

“We hope that the new reduced fares will help us shore up our market share in the region as we cater to a huge segment of workers travelling between India and the Middle East. This is also the peak season when most of the Indians travel back from the Middle East on holidays.”

The new schemes are expected to mitigate the losses the airline has suffered due to a 45-day long strike that has severely hit its international operations. The revenue losses are estimated at Rs.5 crore per day.

The Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), representing aviators of the erstwhile Air India, went on strike May 8 against the move to train their counterparts from the erstwhile Indian Airlines on the soon-to-be-inducted Boeing-787 Dreamliner.

In terms of hiring new pilots the official said that the process will go on till July 23. Air India expects to hire nearly 100 pilots who will pool in with 90 trainee pilots to meet the shortfall in the manpower.

The airline had advertised on its website for hiring new pilots for a contractual period of five years. The advertisements call for both commanders and co-pilots who can operate B-777s, B-747s and 737s. The applicants will have to go through an interview and flight simulator test in Mumbai.

It is expected that Air India will require nearly four-five months to get the trainee pilots in shape as well as orient the new joinees.

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at rohit.v@ians.in or biz@ians.in)

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