Air India makes Frankfurt hub for Western sectorMarch 1st, 2009 - 12:31 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, March 1 (IANS) Air India has made Frankfurt its hub for operations to Europe and the US and has rescheduled flights to these destinations from the next season to offer its passengers better connectivity and reach.”We are restructuring our West-bound operations from March 29. This will improve the reach of our product, cover a larger geographical area and address the issue of a slowdown in load factor,” said Jitendra Bhargava, executive director for corporate communications with Air India.
“With Frankfurt as the hub, our new products will offer excellent connectivity to our passengers not just to Europe but also to some of our existing destinations in the US, namely, Newark and Chicago,” Bhargava told IANS.
Frankfurt is also the hub for Lufthansa, with which Air India not only has a code share pact but also counts as a valuable member of the Star Alliance - the largest interline pact among 21 global carriers that the Indian airline hopes to join soon, he added.
Accordingly, passengers who wish to travel from Delhi to Newark will proceed on the flight out of the Indian capital to Chicago. But at Frankfurt, they will be transferred to the Mumbai-Newark flight.
Likewise, passengers who wish to travel from Mumbai to Chicago will proceed on the flight out of India’s commercial capital to Newark. But in Frankfurt, they will be transferred to the New Delhi-Chicago flight.
“The same logic will apply on return. We have ensured that the connections at Frankfurt are immediate so that within some 19 hours you are in the US - from both Mumbai and New Delhi,” the Air India spokesperson said.
The aircraft to serve these sectors, the Boeing 777-300ERs, would have a configuration of four first class seats, 35 seats on the business class and 303 on the economy class.
Bhargava also explained that hub-and-spoke operations have also been added from Kochi, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad airports to these two sectors for direct connectivity with little time lost on transit.
“We are also doubling the frequency of our Amritsar-London-Tronto sector to six times a week and looking at non-stop flights from Delhi to San Francisco later this year,” he added.
Air India, which currently has a fleet of 151 aircraft, hopes to expand it to around 160 by the end of the next fiscal, inducting as many as 30 new ones manufactured by the US-based Boeing and European Airbus over the next 12 months.
“We will induct three new 777-200LRs, four 777-300ERs, seven A-321s, eight A-319s, four A-320s and four 737-800s,” Bhargava said, adding: “In the process, we will also retire some old aircraft and replace some of the leased ones.”
“By March 2010, a total of 75 new aircraft would have joined our fleet to bring down the average age of our aircraft to 18 months,” he said, recollecting that orders had been placed for 68 Boeing and 43 Airbus aircraft a few years ago.
Forty-five of the new aircraft have already joined the fleet, and with 30 more set to be inducted by the end of the next fiscal - at an average of five aircraft every two months - two-thirds of fleet expansion would be complete.
The airline executive explained that the induction of new aircraft would also require more pilots for which they have initiated a programme to hire around 30-40 trainees each quarter.
He also said that by the end of this year, the airline will conclude its process to have a unified code of “AI” for both domestic and international operations. At present, the operations of erstwhile Indian Airlines, though within Air India, is under the “IC” code.
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Tags: air india, boeing 777, business class, chennai, code share, corporate communications, economy class, geographical area, global carriers, hyderabad, indian airline, interline, lufthansa, mumbai, New Delhi, newark, pact, slowdown, star alliance, western sector