Two Indian airlines have firmed up plans to add more international destinations to their schedule as they prepare to resume regular overseas operations, anticipating a surge in demand for travel as the second wave of the pandemic abates.

While IndiGo has plans to connect distances up to seven hours of flight time from six key metro cities, Vistara will be operating flights to the US, Europe as well as short-haul destinations in Southeast and Central Asia.

Travel experts expect demand for international travel from India to hit up to 60% of pre-Covid levels as soon as flight operations resume.

IndiGo and Vistara have the aircraft to launch these flights. IndiGo, India’s largest airline, will provide connections with its Airbus 320s and 321s. Vistara’s fleet has Airbus 321s and Boeing 787-9, which can fly long-haul routes. Both have been inducting aircraft that could fly long routes, despite the pandemic disrupting international travel.

“Our A321neo aircraft can fly to destinations within the range of 3-7 hours of flying time, which could cover points in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and West Asia,” Vistara’s chief commercial officer, Vinod Kannan, said in an emailed statement to ET. The airline is using the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners to fly to destinations within 11 hours of flying time, but is aiming to fly to destinations farther, such as the US, in the next phase, Kannan said. “We are in the process of preparing for it already as travellers now display a much stronger preference for direct, long-haul travel,” he added.

In a recent interview with ET, IndiGo chief executive Ronojoy Dutta said the airline would add new international routes to its schedule from India’s metro cities. “As soon as this Covid comes down, you will see us going in every direction. We were ready for it before Covid,” Dutta had said. “And we have so many markets within six, seven hours … Places like Beijing, Moscow, Cairo, Nairobi, Jakarta, Manila, and all the CIS countries in between them. I am giving the outer periphery, and this is very attractive

geography.”
India cancelled international flights in March last year. While limited operations were allowed through the Vande Bharat mission and bubble corridors, the second wave of the pandemic put a hold on the plans to resume regular overseas flights in the summer.

While resumption will depend on the behaviour of the coronavirus and the progress in vaccination in India and other countries, industry insiders are hopeful of an opening by the end of 2021 and expect the demand to be higher for short-haul international travel in the beginning.

“We expect demand to rebound to at least 60% of 2019 levels once regular international flights restart and with policies for vaccinated travellers simultaneously taking shape. We anticipate that international short-haul demand is likely to see an uptick before long haul, but this will depend upon the destinations opening up as well,” said Indiver Rastogi, group head – global business travel, at Thomas Cook (India).
While these two airlines have international expansion plans, Air India, GoAir and SpiceJet will also gradually resume their overseas flight operations.

This planned increase in flights by Indian carriers can also be seen as a result of the government’s move to restrict international airlines from expanding into India. The government is considering limiting foreign carriers by bringing in restrictions on the flying rights to give a further boost to the plans by Indian carriers.
Source: Economic Times