Both foreign and Indian airlines operating to and from India are expanding their services. On June 4, Vietjet Air inaugurated the first flight connecting India’s business capital Mumbai in the western state of Maharashtra with Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city. India sees surge of new inbound and outbound routes.

The VietJet flight will operate four times a week to both the cities in Vietnam. This follows on the heels of the airline launching flights to the capital of Delhi.

Virgin Atlantic upped its services to and from India, launching a double daily service from Delhi to London on June 2. Ethiopian Airlines announced that it will start a three-times a week service to the southern Indian port city of Chennai from September 2. The airline also announced that the flight frequency to Mumbai and New Delhi will increase to double daily and ten weekly flights from July this year.

It’s not just foreign airlines that are ramping up capacity to India. Vistara announced the launch of a service linking Mumbai with Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) on August 2. The service is to be operated three times a week. These launches come in the backdrop of low-cost airline IndiGo announcing in March that it will resume international operations and launch flights to various destinations, including Dammam, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Jeddah, Riyadh, and Doha from a number of Indian cities. In March, it also announced that it will start operating to Istanbul in June, a service it started on June 1.

Large outbound market

There are various reasons for this expansion. India is a large outbound market. In 2010, 79 million people traveled to/from/or within India. By 2017 that had doubled to 158 million and this number is expected to treble to 520 million by 2037. Airlines are trying to cash in on this market by increasing frequencies and also the destinations that they fly to. India is also recovering strongly from two years of lockdowns and travel restrictions resulting from Covid, which kept the country closed for a prolonged period.

Besides the increase in outbound traffic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is of the view that by 2036 India’s population is expected to reach 1.6 billion, and average incomes are expected to rise to almost $5,000 per capita (a five-fold increase on 2006). With that, the number of “middle class” households should reach 20 percent by 2036 (up from two percent in 2006). This is another potential market waiting to be tapped by both international and national carriers. 

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Ashwini Phadnis
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Former Senior Deputy Editor at Business Line (aka The Hindu Business Line)

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