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As one of the airlines worst affected by the pandemic, Cathay Pacific is identifying significant growth opportunities as part of its post-Covid recovery phase.

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Last week, Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific announced the resumption of three non-stop weekly flights from Chennai.

Skift caught up with Anand Yedery, regional head of customer travel and lifestyle for South Asia, Middle East and Africa at Cathay Pacific, to talk about the carrier’s plans for India.

Here’s what we found out…

India is a high priority market for the carrier. As Yedery said, “Airline operational levels in India have been soaring and this upward trend signifies a strong recovery. We are rebuilding our capacity as quickly as is feasible with more flights and destinations.”

Current Operations: Cathay operates out of Delhi with a double daily, a daily from Mumbai, and four times a week from Bengaluru. The thrice weekly from Chennai will start from February 2. 

Compared to Pre-Pandemic: However, according to Yedery, the carrier’s current 25 flights out of India is almost 50% of the 49 flights that it used to operate pre-pandemic as an airline group between Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon from six ports.

Outbound Destinations: Besides, Hong Kong, some of the destinations driving demand for Cathay Pacific from India include Japan, Korea, and Australia.

Emerging travel trends:

  • Travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations
  • Focus on wellness and sustainability
  • Exploring local cuisine.
  • ‘Set-jetting,’ or visiting locations where TV shows and movies are filmed, is also gaining momentum.

Performance: With strong demand across segments like business, visiting friends and relatives, leisure and student travel, Cathay Pacific’s demand from India has been witnessing an upward trajectory.

“Our load factors have been in a healthy range from all three markets that we currently operate from,” said Yedery.

Air India Launches Self-Baggage Drop and Check-In Facility at Delhi Airport

Tata Group-owned Air India has introduced a self-baggage drop and self-kiosk check-in service at Terminal 3 of Delhi airport for its domestic flights and flights to Australia.

With this Air India becomes the first Indian carrier to offer self-baggage drop facility for international flights.

Delhi Airport had introduced the facility at Terminal-3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport in June to streamline the baggage drop-off process. The airport had claimed it would reduce wait time for passengers by 15-20 minutes.

IndiGo was the first airline to use it for domestic flights.

Air India’s Project Abhinandan: Last week, Air India rolled out ‘Project Abhinandan’ under which the carrier deployed specially trained Service Assurance Officers at 16 major Indian airports to proactively sense passenger concerns and offer on-ground assistance across airport touchpoints. 

Indonesia Welcomed 325,000 Indians Between January and July

Indonesia tourism has experienced an overall increase of 12-15% surge in travelers from India compared to the previous year as it welcomed nearly 325,000 Indians between January and July this year, Sanjay Sondhi, country manager of Visit Indonesia Tourism Office in India told Skift. 

Pre-pandemic, Indonesia welcomed 673,000 Indian arrivals.

The tourism board recently concluded a multi-city roadshow across three Indian cities — Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Ahmedabad.

“Indonesia wants to attract Indian travelers with new destinations beyond the holiday island of Bali. We’re trying to showcase Lombok, Labuan Bajo, and some sites in central Java,” said Sondhi.

Flight Connectivity: Last month, Indigo launched its maiden direct flight from Mumbai to Jakarta. 

“We’re also expecting Vistara to start operations soon into Denpasar,” Sondhi added.

Air India Express, AirAsia India Launch Interline Booking Services for Flyers

Air India Express and AirAsia India have commenced interline bookings to provide customers with a seamless experience amid the ongoing merger process.

AirAsia India received approval from the Indian civil aviation regulator in July to operate its flights under the Air India Express brand.

What the Arrangement Entails: Through this feature, passengers will be able to book a single itinerary for both airlines, including a single Passenger Name Record (PNR) on the common website and other online travel agents, according to a joint statement by the two airlines. 

Along with a single PNR facility, the passenger will also receive a single boarding pass at the departing airport when undertaking a domestic journey on AirAsia India flight and a connecting international flight with Air India Express, as per the statement.

Merger Process: AirAsia India which has been renamed as AIX Connect operates on domestic routes and is in the process of integrating and merging with Air India Express, which flies on international routes.

With a combined fleet of 54 aircraft, both airlines together connect 44 destinations, operating over 250 routes across India, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, according to the statement. The airlines have already integrated ancillary add-on services and sub-brands.

Thailand Plans Incentives to Woo Indian Tourists

After announcing visa waivers for travelers from China and Kazakhstan, newly-elected Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is now looking towards India, one of its most reliable tourism source markets, to boost tourism, according to a Bloomberg report.

Tourists from China and Kazakhstan can enter Thailand without a visa between September 25 and February 29, and can stay for a maximum of 30 days at a time.

The waiver comes in time before two major long holidays in China — the weeklong National Day holiday in early October, and the Spring Festival holiday in late January.

Flights: The Bloomberg report cited that Srettha plans to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this year and discuss increasing flight frequency between the two countries, including more services by flag carrier Thai Airways.

Boosting Indian Arrivals: Thailand may also mull other measures, such as offering tax exemptions on jewelry imported for Indian weddings held in Thailand, a popular destination for such ceremonies, he said.  

However, Srettha said a visa waiver may not be necessary, as Indian tourists already can easily obtain Thai visas.

In 2022, India was the second largest source market for Thailand after Malaysia. Almost a million Indians visited Thailand last year out of a total of over 11 million foreign visitors. This year, Thailand targets to welcome its pre-pandemic number of 2 million Indian tourists.

Domestic Air Passenger Traffic Surges 22% in August

Indian airlines carried 12.4 million passengers in August, a jump of 22.8% compared to the previous month, according to latest data from aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

Further, air traffic increased 30.55% to 100.6 million passengers in the January-August period as compared to last year’s data.

Market Share of Airlines: 

  • IndiGo‘s market share for August stood at 63.3% when compared to 63.4% in July. The airline carried 7.8 million passengers during the month.
  • Tata Group-owned Air India retained its position as the second-largest domestic carrier in August and garnered a market share of 9.8%, flying 1.2 million passengers during the period.
  • Vistara‘s market share rose to 9.8%, flying 1.2 million passengers last month.
  • Air India’s subsidiary AirAsia India maintained its fourth spot, serving 878,000 passengers and accounting for 7.2% of the total traffic during the month.
  • New entrant Akasa Air carried 527,000 passengers in August, garnering a market share of 4.2%.

Fortune Hotels Signs a Property in Kevadia, Gujarat

Indian hospitality company ITC Hotel Group’s Fortune Hotels has signed a management agreement with Arete Services for an upscale 144-room hotel in Kevadia in the western state of Gujarat. 

Opening: The resort is estimated to open by the end of this year.

New Signings: The company recently signed Fortune Jungle Resort & Spa in Jim Corbett in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand. 

Expansion Plans: The company plans to add 15 new properties with 1,500 rooms in the next two-and-a-half years to its portfolio.

“Kevadia is our sixth signing of the year and our second alliance with the owning company in Gujarat. We hope to continue our efforts towards expanding our business and leisure portfolio,” said Samir MC, managing director of Fortune Hotels.

IndiGo Becomes Official Airline Partner for Indian Football Team

IndiGo announced that it is the global partner and official airline for the Indian football team. 

The airline’s partnership with the All-India Football Federation (AIFF) will be for a year. 

“This marks our inaugural foray into the world of sports,” said Pieter Elbers, CEO of IndiGo.

Other Highlights: In another development, IndiGo received aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation‘s nod to wet lease 11 Airbus A320 planes, CNBC-TV18 reported. 

This comes amid IndiGo grounding nearly 40 planes due to a Pratt & Whitney engine issue, the report said. Indigo switched suppliers from Pratt & Whitney to GE-Safran venture CFM International about four years ago following issues with engines’ durability. 


Skift India Report

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Tags: air asia, air india, air traffic, cathay pacific, china, football, india, indigo, indonesia, itc hotels, skift india report, thailand, visa waiver

Photo credit: India is a high priority market for Cathay Pacific. Michael Sotnikov / Flickr

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