Global airline executives believe that only Tatas can revive and increase market share of Air India

Global airline executives, including Emirates president Tim Clark and Lufthansa’s CEO Carsten Spohr, believe that Air India, under the Tata group, has a great opportunity to capture a larger share of the international aviation market.

They were speaking to the media on the sidelines of the 78th annual general meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Doha.

“Airline operations in India are difficult. However, only the Tata Group could make a legacy airline work. Air India should be as big as United Airlines, because of its domestic market as well as the non-resident Indians (NRIs) abroad and the amount of economic activity that goes in and out of India. It is a goldmine.

For decades, Air India has continued to be a small player on the international scene. So, it is not easy to operate in the Indian market even though the population is pretty upwardly mobile and getting more mobile over time. So, you need a safe pair of hands with business acumen to be able to activate this (Air India). If Tatas can’t make it work, nobody over there (in India) will be able to make it work.”

Tim Clark, President, Emirates

Currently, Air India’s fleet size is one-fifth of United Airlines. While Air India currently has approximately 128 planes in its fleet, Chicago-based United Airlines has 860-odd aircraft.

India has a huge demand unlike a lot of other countries, he said. When asked how Air India’s rise will affect Emirates, he confidently noted, “As far as Emirates is concerned, well, bring it on, quite honestly. I mean, there is plenty for everybody.”

“As far as Emirates is concerned, well, bring it on, quite honestly. I mean, there is plenty for everybody.” – Tim Clark, Emirates President

India’s international passenger market is dominated by international airlines like Emirates, one of two flag carriers of the United Arab Emirates.

Emirates – which operates 170 flights connecting Dubai with Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Thiruvananthapuram – carries a significant number of Indian passengers from India to Europe and the US with one stop in Dubai.

Meanwhile, Lufthansa’s Spohr said the takeover of Air India by the Tata Group will benefit Indian passengers. The Lufthansa Group appreciates the Indian government’s idea to make Air India a strong player to regain the Indian international passenger market share, he added.

“There is an opportunity for Indian carriers to take a larger share of the Indian market than what has happened in the past. Let’s be honest, most of the growth in the (Indian international passenger) market was taken by the Gulf carriers.

So, I appreciate the idea of the Indian government to create a stronger player and we hope that our partner Air India will take advantage of those conditions.”

Carsten Spohr, CEO, Lufthansa

When asked about what kind of partnership Lufthansa Group is looking for in India, he replied, “Our partner is Air India, also here in Star Alliance. And we are watching very closely what is happening with Vistara, what is happening with other carriers, but at this point, there is no news.”

Star Alliance is a global grouping of 27 airlines, which includes United Airlines, Lufthansa Group, Air Canada, etc.

ALSO READ – Air India in talks with fellow Star Alliance members for codeshare agreements

Currently, Lufthansa Group operates 42 flights per week connecting India with Germany and Switzerland.

Germany-based Lufthansa group operates various European airline brands including SWISS, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines. Spohr said the Lufthansa Group is very happy that India has lifted its restrictions on the travel bubble.

Currently, Lufthansa Group operates 42 flights per week connecting India with Germany and Switzerland. Before the pandemic, the Lufthansa group used to operate 56 per week on the routes.

“If correct strategies are used Air India can become a very powerful player in the Indian market. Air India can definitely be strengthened. If there’s one group that can do it, it’s the Tatas.”

Philip Goh, Regional Vice President for Asia Pacific, IATA

India’s international passenger market is dominated by international airlines, mainly carriers based out of the Gulf region such as Emirates and Qatar Airways.

The Tatas won Air India in October 2021, finding it a pale shadow of its former self, burdened under massive debt and losses. The airline’s accumulated losses at the end of March stood at INR 83,916 crore.

The Tatas won Air India in October 2021, finding it a pale shadow of its former self, burdened under massive debt and losses.

Tata Sons’ and Air India chairman N Chandrasekaran has said the new owners will step on the gas in their initiatives to revive the airline, working on various aspects from better customer service to new planes to higher degrees of digitalisation at the back end.

But the aviation-to-automobile conglomerate has to grapple with a host of challenges including an inflated workforce, a chunk of which will likely be let go after a year; old planes that need refurbishing and old archaic maintenance contracts that need to be restructured.

ALSO READ – Air India eyes Multiple Hubs, International Expansion

ALSO READ – Air India prepares to add more than 200 aircraft; the most significant order in a long time

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