Friday, June 25, 2010

Lufthansa Group Ups Frequencies To India


AWIN First Jun 24 , 2010
Neelam Mathews

Business is returning for international carriers as India’s hot summer weather is driving people to cooler climates.

Airlines of the Lufthansa Passenger Airline Group -- Swiss International Airlines, Austrian and Lufthansa -- are consolidating their position as the leading European provider, offering 75 weekly flights from seven Indian destinations, starting from the winter schedule.

Lufthansa,­ which ran an all-business-class Boeing 737 before the recession to Pune from Frankfurt, has introduced an economy-business configuration on four weekly flights, up from the present three.

The carrier will replace an Airbus A340-300 on its Chennai-Frankfurt route with an A340-600, adding 80 seats. However, Lufthansa’s request to fly the A380 was rejected by the Indian government.

Swiss, which serves Delhi-Zurich and Mumbai-Zurich, will operate daily flights, up from six per week, to Delhi and five per week to Mumbai. Austrian Airlines also will expand its presence in India with the addition of Mumbai to its global network, offering five weekly flights.

“By improving connectivity from India’s key gateways to four European hubs with an unrivaled number of onward destinations, our airline group supports India’s growing need for international mobility,” says Axel Hilgers, Lufthansa’s director for South Asia.

Loads fell to almost 70% last year during the global economic downturn, and demand from Europe was down sharply, leading Swiss to cut Mumbai flights to five a week from seven and Delhi frequencies to six from seven.

Higher loads and better yields have led Swiss to resume first-class service to India and also increase frequencies. Starting Oct. 30, Mumbai and Delhi will receive daily service, operated with a new A330-300 in a three-class configuration, including eight first-class seats.

“Higher yields in full-service carriers generally depend on the front end of the cabin. Yields are up as embargoes on high-end travel are being lifted and corporations are more inclined to return to business class,” Jean-Philippe Benoit, Swiss general manager-South Asia, told The DAILY in April.

While BMI withdrew its flights to India last year, Jet Airways signed a code-share agreement with the Lufthansa Group’s Brussels Airlines. The accord will provide connections to 12 destinations -- Birmingham, Barcelona, Lyon, Madrid, Berlin, Paris, Manchester, Hamburg, Marseilles, Toulouse, Geneva and Vienna.

“Besides widening Jet Airways’ presence on the European market, the code-share agreement with Brussels Airlines has enabled both airlines to leverage each other’s network strengths and service quality to significantly boost air travel on the Indo-European sector,” said Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, then Jet Airways CEO and currently CEO of BMI.

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