Air India shifts focus to tier-2, tier-3 cities

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Shifting its focus to tier-two cities, Air India on May 24, 2011 connected Kanpur to Delhi as well as Kolkata. With more regional connections, Air India plans to increase its domestic market share and firm up falling revenues, according to a report by Vinay Kumar in the Hindu Business Line.

Senior Air India officials who were on the inaugural Delhi-Kanpur-Kolkata flight said the carrier was looking at the regional sector, comprising tier-two and tier-three cities with one million-plus population, to be the growth driver for the domestic aviation sector. “There are 42 such towns and after conducting viability studies, we plan to connect most of them with major metros,’’ Air India officials said.

The airline also plans to lease 16 turbo prop 48-seater and 70-seater planes to operate on regional routes. Besides the four CRJ aircraft, which it has now, the national carrier is also looking at leasing more regional jets to operate faster flights on regional sectors.

Turbo prop planes would also be deployed on several routes in the north-east region where Air India would turn Guwahati as a major hub and offer connections to smaller cities in the north-east region. On the other hand, CRJs or the regional jets would be used to connect cities like Vadodara, Surat and Port Blair with Delhi.

Inaugurating the Kanpur-Delhi flight at Kanpur's Chakeri Airport, Vayalar Ravi, Union Minister of Civil Aviation, Govt of India said that Air India would soon connect Kanpur to Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Along with Sriprakash Jaiswal, Union Coal Minister and MP from Kanpur, Vayalar Ravi flagged off the flight to Kolkata.

The flight will be operated by Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India with a 70-seater CRJ-700 jet aircraft. The new flight – AI 9801/9802, will be operated on all days except Sundays on the Delhi-Kanpur-Kolkata and back. Air India is offering the special fares till June 30, 2011 on this sector.

Ravi said that the Ministry of Civil Aviation was looking at a perspective plan, focusing on Uttar Pradesh, with a stress on developing related infrastructure and improving connectivity of the State. Ravi also said that he plans to visit the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udan Academy (IGRUA) at Fursatganj in Rae Bareilly soon with an aim to start aviation training courses there. IGRUA at present has facilities for training pilots but, the Minister indicated, an ambitious expansion plan of the academy was on the cards.
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