As IndiGo announces the launch of international services, and Air India looks set to finally join Star Alliance, Business Traveller rounds up six major Indian carriers
The long-awaited inauguration of state-owned Air India into the Star Alliance finally looks likely to come to fruition next month, with Stars CEO Jaan Albrecht giving the carrier a deadline of July 31 to fulfil requirements for membership (see online news May 10).
It’s been a long four years since Star Alliance first announced Air India would be joining the fold, during which time the carrier has been dogged by delays in meeting alliance standards, and a recent ten-day pilot strike strike.
But last month the carrier said on its website that it had “complied with the Minimum Joining Requirements, which are mandatory for joining the alliance”.
Air India serves a total of 49 domestic and 26 international destinations with a mixture of Airbus and Boeing aircraft, and has a total of 27 of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft on order.
Not to be confused with fellow Indian airline IndiGo (see below), low-cost carrier GoAir serves around 20 domestic routes from its bases at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International and Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International.
The carrier currently operates ten Airbus A320 aircraft, but recently placed an order for a further 72 A320 neos, valued at around US$7 billion. The new aircraft are scheduled to join the fleet over the next five to seven years.
Launched in 2006, domestic low-cost carrier IndiGo was recently granted government permission to start international services this September, with initial routes including Bangkok, Dubai and Singapore (see online news June 15).
The airline also made aviation history earlier this year, when it signed an Memorandum of Understanding for the largest aircraft order in history – 180 Airbus A320 aircraft (150 of which will be the upgraded neo version). These aircraft are due for delivery between 2016 and 2025.
Privately-owned Jet Airways has hubs in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bengalaru, Pune and Kolkata, and operates over 400 domestic and international daily flights, making it one of India’s largest carriers.
Jet launched its first long-haul international route to London in 2005, and also operates a transatlantic hub at Brussels, offering connecting flights from India on to Toronto and New York. The carrier has not yet aligned itself with one of the three major airline alliances.
The airline offers fully flat business class (Premiere) seating on its Airbus A330 and Boeing 777-300s, as well as first class suites on its long-haul Boeing aircraft. For reviews of both products, click here.
The carrier also owns subsidiary JetLite, a domestic airline formed when Jet Airways bought Air Sahara in 2007.
Kingfisher Airlines was launched as a domestic carrier in 2005, with international operations starting in 2008 between London and Bengalaru. This route has since been dropped, although Kingfisher now serves London from Delhi and Mumbai.
The carrier offers a fully-flat business class (Kingfisher First) seat on its long-haul Airbus A330 aircraft, with an onboard bar for premium passengers. For a review of this product click here.
Kingfisher is set to join the Oneworld alliance in early 2012, and is being sponsored through the integration process by founder member British Airways.
Low-cost carrier Spicejet serves mainly domestic destinations from its primary hub at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International, although last year it launched international flights from Chennai to Colombo, and Delhi to Kathmandu.
The carrier operates Boeing 737-800 and 737-900 aircraft, and has placed orders for 15 Bombardier Dash 400s, due for delivery by June 2012. These aircraft will allow the carrier to launch routes from regional Indian cities including Vijayawada, Tirupati, Mysore, Mangalore, Madurai, Nagpur and Indore.
By Mark Caswell