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Air India confirms more flights to the UAE, Qatar ahead of World Cup


Aug-11 11:07 first published at 11:07 AM

Air India will take a more aggressive approach to regaining passengers on the Gulf route. Passenger load factors currently appear to be favorable.
Photographer: AP

Dubai: Air India is the latest airline to confirm additional flights to the UAE and Qatar in November, when the FIFA World Cup kicks off.
The carrier, which has been owned by Tata Sons since the beginning of this year, will resume four weekly flights between Dubai and Kolkata when the winter schedule begins on October 22. It will fly the Airbus A320Neo, which has 12 Business Class seats and 150 Economy seats.

“We are currently flying into Dubai with all of our entitlements,” said P.P Singh, Regional Manager at Air India. “Additional routes will necessitate a change in bilateral agreements (agreements) between the two countries.”
In terms of Doha flight plans, Air India may add more flights connecting India to Qatar. “A clearer picture will emerge after all airlines file their slots on August 22,” Singh said.
Air India will be hoping to win those additional flights, especially before November, when traffic on these routes is expected to skyrocket as football fans flock to their favorite World Cup matches.

‘One Fare, One India’

Air India is running an Indian Independence Day special promotion, with tickets from Dubai starting at Dh330. The promotion will be available from August 8 to August 21. The ‘One India One Fare’ initiative provides discounted one-way fares from all Gulf destinations, except Oman, to any Indian destination. This is valid on tickets sold during the promotion period for travel until October 15. Air India said that flights from Dubai will cost Dh330. Currently, a flight to India will cost up to Dh500, depending on the destination. “We have seen heavy demand on Day 1 itself of the promotion and that’s a very positive sign,” said Singh.

Dreamliner delivers
For now, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is helping Air India big. “Since the start of normal scheduled operations from India in March, we have seen high demand for the Boeing 787 Dreamliners on all India-Dubai routes,” said Singh.
The airline is operating 69 weekly flights to Dubai and of these 35 are Dreamliners. This is seen as a move by Air India to increase its market share in the highly lucrative Gulf market by offering upgraded on-board services and newer aircraft. The Dreamliner offer more legroom and are generally more comfortable than, say, the likes of Airbus A320.
The load factors for the Boeing aircraft are showing steady growth on a month-on-month basis and is at over 85 per cent, said Singh. “Although passenger numbers have surpassed 2021 levels, they are yet to return to the pre-pandemic normality.”
Air India’s overall passenger number on the route for April-July was just marginally lower than pre-pandemic levels, said Singh. “We see a very healthy recovery and upcoming events such as the Asia Cup cricket tournament will be positive for the travel industry in general.”

Ready for winter spike
“The winter season is looking promising – we expect yields to be better than current levels and passenger volumes, which have seen a steady rise since the lifting of restrictions in March, will soon reach 96-97 per cent of pre-Covid levels,” he added.

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