Air Sahara flights to Europe in Sept
NEW DELHI, JAN 4: With the government opening up international skies for private domestic airlines, Air Sahara has drawn up a major expansion plan to offer non-stop flights from several Indian cities to not just Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur but to London as well. The flights to the Far East will commence in April-May while the London flight will take a little longer to get off the ground as slots at the airport is an issue, Air Sahara president Rono Joy Dutta said.
“The airline is kind of ready to launch operations to the Far East. The flights to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, among other destinations in the Asean region will be non-stop. We are looking at offering connections from at least two or three cities within the country,” Mr Dutta told FE. He, however, said for the present, London would be the only destination in Europe to which the airline will operate flights from September onwards.
“We have also stepped on the gas to lease wide-bodied aircraft for launching services to key destinations like London,” Mr Dutta said. At present, Air Sahara’s fleet of 21 aircraft includes new generation Boeing 737-700, 737-800 and 737-400 aircraft. “We plan to expand the fleet to 32 aircraft by July this year and have already signed contracts to acquire five aircraft,” he said.
According to Mr Dutta, the airline will use its new generation B737s for operating services to Asean destinations like Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lampur, but flights to long-haul destinations like the UK or the US can be operated only with wide-bodied aircraft like B777, B747 or A340.
Mr Dutta said, during 2004, Air Sahara saw a 50% growth in passenger traffic from two million passengers it flew in 2003 to three million passengers. “We are also creating an international hub at Hyderabad which would connect Hyderabad to Indian cities and international destinations. Air Sahara would operate 126 flights per week from Hub Hyderabad. Domestic cities connected to the hub would be Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Goa, Cochin, Bangalore, Chennai, Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Lucknow. The service will commence on February 3rd,” he said.
“At a later stage, international cities like Kathmandu and Colombo will be connected to the hub. Air Sahara also intends to connect the hub to destinations like Singapore, Kuala Lampur and London, once all necessary governmental approvals are received,” Mr Dutta said.
Meanwhile, Air Sahara has strengthened its management team by inducting two senior management executives from its competitors. While Mr MC Gupta joins Air Sahara as head of quality assurance from Indian Airlines, Mr N Sundarajan, earlier with Jet Airways, will head Air Sahara’s international sales for Asia and America region, Mr Dutta said.