It is not easy for an airline to operate in India and if the Tata Group cannot make Air India work, no one else in the country will be able to do so, Emirates President Tim Clark has said.
“Air India should be as big as United Airlines. It should be as big because of its domestic market as well as the non-resident Indians (NRIs) abroad and the amount of economic activity that goes in and out of India. It is a goldmine,” Clark said on Monday.
While Air India currently has approximately 128 planes in its fleet, Chicago-based United Airlines has 860-odd aircraft.
“You (India) have got a billion population with an NRI population which is so big and growing all the time that for the notion that Air India would not be one of the largest international carriers in the world defies all sense,” Mr. Clark said here on the sidelines of the 78th annual general meeting of International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The Tata Group took control of loss-making and debt-ridden Air India on January 27 after successfully winning the bid for the airline on October 8 last year.
“I think the best thing that could have happened to Air India was for Tatas to take it over. I am probably the only one in this room who flew on Air India when it was run and owned by Air India. And it was a great airline. One of the first airlines to buy Boeing 707 aircraft in 1959 or 1960, whenever it was,” Mr. Clark said.
He said that for decades, Air India has continued to be a small player on the international scene.
India’s international passenger market is dominated by international airlines like Emirates, one of two flag carriers of the United Arab Emirates.
Emirates — which operates 170 flights connecting Dubai with Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Thiruvananthapuram — carries a significant number of Indian passengers from India to Europe and the US with one stop in Dubai.
Lufthansa about Air India
Most of the growth in the Indian international passenger market has been taken up by the airlines based out of the Gulf region and the Lufthansa Group appreciates the Indian government’s idea to make Air India a strong player to regain that market share, its CEO Carsten Spohr has said.
India’s international passenger market is dominated by international airlines, mainly carriers based out of the Gulf region such as Emirates and Qatar Airways.
When asked what would be the impact of Air India — under the Tata Group — on Lufthansa’s India operations, Spohr on Monday told reporters, “There is opportunity for Indian carriers to take a larger share of the Indian market than what has happened in the past. Let’s be honest, most of the growth in the (Indian international passenger) market was taken by the Gulf carriers.”
“So, I appreciate the idea of the Indian government to create a stronger player and we hope that our partner Air India will take advantage of those conditions,” he added.
Germany-based Lufthansa group operates various European airline brands including SWISS, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines.
Spohr said the Lufthansa Group is very happy that India has lifted its restrictions on the travel bubble.