Tuesday, September 13, 2011

EXCLUSIVE! San Francisco International Airport woos Jet Airways

Neelam Mathews
Sept 13, 2011
Time:11:00pm IST

As Indian travelers to the U.S increased by 17% in 2010 over 2009 to 650,000, with San Francisco among the top three destinations, San Francisco International Airport is aggressively wooing Jet Airways with incentives to start a direct service from India.

SFO has a huge United Airlines presence at the airport and Jet’s codeshare with UA will help Indian passengers connect to over 200 destinations on the west coast. While Customs will need to be cleared, SFO has a secure connector for those transferring from domestic to international.

The airport has presently, a program for any new service flying into SFO. It waives off landing fees for the first year, that saves the carrier around $400,000. It also develops along with the incoming carrier a marketing program to help develop the destination for which a budget of $150,000 is allotted. “This shows our commitment and support,” says Kandace Bender, Deputy Airport Director, San Francisco International Airport to Aerospace Diary at the U.S travel road show held in Delhi. 

SFO gets 758 passengers flying to it each way a day from India.

Direct flights to SFO make sense as there is justification in front of the plane…besides there is a big student and IT business to the Silicon Valley, “What is equally important is that premium travelers head to SFO,” Bender said.

Does the airport have slots? “They are available tomorrow,” says Bender.

Jet’s starting the service would however depend on whether its B-777 could make the range and the availability of long range aircraft.

Jet Airways had started daily services on its new 777-300ER aircraft from Mumbai to San Francisco via Shanghai in June 2008, but withdrew six months later. The flight became the airline's fourth daily departure from India to North America, following launch of its services to New York's JFK and Newark airports, and Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Kingfisher Airlines announcement of the first direct international flight from Bangalore to San Francisco from Aug 27, 2008, never took off. “We had also planned to meet Kingfisher, but due to their unavailability, we will be meeting them at the Routes forum in Berlin,” said Bender.

Interestingly, Kingfisher had already started building its first class lounge in SFO in 2008 and when it withdrew, it was taken over by Emirates.

Presently carriers such as Emirates, Cathay and Lufthansa primarily carry Indians to the west coast.

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