Kingfisher Airlines to go international early SeptemberJuly 15th, 2008 - 6:51 pm ICT by IANS
By Dipankar De Sarkar
Farnborough, July 15 (IANS) Kingfisher Airlines, one of India’s largest domestic carriers, will launch its international service with daily flights to Europe and Southeast Asia by Sep 3 and the US soon after, airline chairman Vijay Mallya said. Non-stop flights from Bangalore and Mumbai to London, and from Mumbai to Hong Kong and Singapore are to begin Aug 31-Sep 3.
The India-to-London flights will reach the British capital after lunch around 2.30 p.m. GMT, and the return flights will be overnight journeys beginning around 10 p.m. GMT.
A unique non-stop flight from Bangalore to San Francisco is planned for September or October, along with a flight to New York, either non-stop or one-stop.
“The Bangalore-San Francisco non-stop flight, according to me, is a no-brainer because it connects the two silicons - the Silicon Plateau and the Silicon Valley,” Mallya told reporters aboard an Airbus A330-200 aircraft recently acquired by Kingfisher Airlines and displayed at the Farnborough airshow that began Monday.
“The biggest and the best software companies from the San Francisco Bay area have large operations in Bangalore and there is a huge amount of traffic. That’s one sector in the (aviation) industry that hasn’t been affected by rising oil prices or the slowing economy,” Mallya added.
Kingfisher has convenient landing and take-off slots for all the sectors.
The success of Kingfisher’s international service is pinned heavily on demand for foreign travel among Indians sustaining through an economic downturn and rising prices.
“We believe that there are a large number of Indians who pay for quality and service,” Mallya said.
“We recently have been forced to raise prices due to the rises in the price of fuel. And we have surprisingly not seen any reduction in our load-factor, which reinforces our belief that when people pay more they demand higher standards of quality, which Kingfisher Airlines is able to deliver,” Mallya said.
Mallya said the Kingfisher international flights have been designed in a two-class configuration, with the front cabin priced slightly higher than normal business class, but offering a “nearly full first class experience.”
Although the seats will be without partitions, which Mallya thought were “unnecessary in today’s economic context,” there will a bar area, where customers can use laptops and socialise.
There will be an on-board chef and business class seats will come with head-to-toe massagers and Bose headphones.
Economy class passengers will be served business class meals and have access to web-chat and email services. “We are putting back the style into air travel which over the years has disappeared in favour of better economics,” he added.
“I believe there are people who will pay to fly in style. Kingfisher has never sold cheap, will not sell cheap.”
Kingfisher Airlines, part of the UB Group, will press a fleet of 10 Airbus aircraft - five each of the A330-200 and A340-500 - for its international routes, with plans to acquire more planes in 2010.
“Hopefully, the oil prices will blow over if not next year, then the year after,” Mallya said.
In the meantime, Mallya admitted, Kingfisher Airlines was “burning money” rather than generating it - not only due to rising global oil prices but also because of a 30 percent sales tax on aviation turbine fuel in India, which he wants cut to four percent.
But he said Kingfisher was better placed than its domestic competitors because of the financial stability provided by the UB Group.
“UB is one of India’s largest companies. We are clear market leaders in some of the fast growing businesses in India in their respective categories,” Mallya stressed.
“We have huge cash flows. That is not to say we intend to unnecessarily dump cash in any unprofitable business. But if it means seeing Kingfisher through turbulent times, then we obviously will, in the best interests of our shareholders.”
“Kingfisher is well funded. It has optimised its operations and, therefore, we aren’t nearly as vulnerable as some of our other airlines in India might be,” Mallya added.
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Tags: airbus a330 200, aviation industry, brainer, dipankar, domestic carriers, early september, economic downturn, farnborough airshow, foreign travel, journeys, kingfisher, kingfisher airlines, london flights, return flights, rising oil prices, san francisco bay, san francisco bay area, sarkar, silicon valley, southeast asia