Jet Airways defers plan for Mumbai-South Africa service

March 7th, 2008 - 6:59 pm ICT by admin  

By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, March 7 (IANS) Jet Airways, India’s largest private carrier, has indefinitely deferred the plan to launch a Mumbai-Johannesburg service from this April in favour of more lucrative destinations like the US and China. “We operate a business and have to consider the bottom line by looking at routes which are more profitable and deliver better yields,” Jet Airways representative Alex Cost said.

“We cannot afford to lose money. We look only at business decisions and not at any political decisions (in deciding routes),” Cost told IANS, adding South Africa was “on the cards” for Jet but that no time frame could be given.

Jet CEO Wolfgang Prock-Schauer had announced in November - when the company was voted India’s Leading Airline at the annual World Travel Awards in Bangalore - that the airline was finalising plans for the Mumbai-Johannesburg route from the summer of 2008.

Possible extensions were also being considered at the time to the coastal city of Durban, home to about 70 percent of South African Indians descended largely from the first indentured labourers to arrive there in 1860.

The initial plans included onward flights to Kenya in East Africa, but this option too has been shelved.

At that time, the travel industry had welcomed Jet’s announcement. Travel operators here had said the four flights a week by South African Airways (SAA), the only carrier flying directly between India and South Africa, were not enough to meet the demand with the number of both business and tourist passengers growing daily in both directions.

SAA got its sole carrier status after India’s national carrier Air India pulled out of the country some years ago, also citing poor business and lack of profitability as the reasons.

The Indian consul general in Durban, Harsh Shringla, had also welcomed the Jet move then, saying South African government statistics had shown that the 11,000 rands spent by each of the 40,000 tourists from India in 2006 had made them the highest spenders among the visitors to this country.

Shringla was hopeful that the Jet Airways foray into Durban would have allowed Indian tourists to see more of Durban than only the traditional sights of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Sun City that they tended to go to.

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