Air France-KLM’s current Indian services are limited due to restrictions on air bubbles, but the airline hopes the Indian government will allow it to increase flights to meet growing demand, an executive said. superior of the carrier.
As of July 2020, India has allowed limited special international flights with passenger restrictions under formed air bubbles with around 28 countries including France and the Netherlands.
Regular international flights remain suspended in India since March 23 last year.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline operated 38 weekly flights from three Indian cities – Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai – to Paris and Amsterdam, Jean-Noel Rault, Managing Director (Indian subcontinent), Air France- KLM, told PTI in an interview.
Currently, Air France-KLM operates 17 weekly flights from four Indian cities – Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai – to Paris and Amsterdam according to the air bubbles formed between India and France in July 2020 and India and the Netherlands in November. 2020.
When asked if he sees demand increasing on flights to India, Rault said, “India has a very strong VFR (visit from friends and relatives) market. In my opinion, this is one of the key factors in stimulating demand.
“We have also seen the student segment develop favorably thanks to the practical connections we offer and have received a favorable reception for the direct Chennai-Paris operations launched in June by Air France”, he added.
The airline expected business and business travel to gradually increase in the second half of 2022, Rault noted.
However, the carrier’s reach was still limited in terms of frequency and destinations under the air bubble restrictions, he added.
“We hope that with the gradual opening of borders, we will be allowed to increase our frequency to meet changing demand,” he said.
Rault said that Air France-KLM, under the specific circumstances present in India, was operating services with the aim of covering the variable costs of each individual flight operation.
“In trends, the variation has been high in load factors over the past 12 months… On a positive note, for the first time since the pandemic, we are seeing load factors increase for flights to India” , he added.
Air France-KLM believes that the increase in flight frequencies should be considered with the gradual opening of international borders and growing demand, he said.
“We continue to interact with the relevant authorities with the Embassy of France and the Embassy of the Netherlands in India. With our embassies, we continue to explore opportunities with the Indian authorities to increase the number of flights from from India, “noted Rault.
When asked if he thought India should open regular international flights now, he replied that it might be prudent for India to consider moving towards “a normal world with a gradual reopening. international business operations “because the country is doing very well with the vaccination campaign and the COVID-19 situation is improving globally.
“This would help facilitate travel to and from India, boost inbound tourism to India, which is essential to help the economy and local operators who have been severely affected by the pandemic,” Rault added.
Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said in September that the Center should seek to put in place certain systems to boost long-haul international flights from Indian carriers to countries such as Europe and South America. South.
Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr said last month that restricting air traffic between India and Germany was hurting both economies and the airline group was eagerly awaiting the Indian government to allow more flights. between the two countries.
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