On the international civil aviation day, two European carriers - Air Italy and WOW air - started their inaugural flights to India. Full-service carrier Air Italy started New Delhi-to-Milan and Mumbai-to-Milan non-stop flights on an Airbus 330-200 offering a configuration of 24 business class and 228 economy class seats. Low-cost carrier WOW air, on the other hand, launched Delhi-to-Reykjavik direct flight.
Citing the reasons behind the expansion, Air Italy's COO Rossen Dimitrov said that Italy is the second-most visited European destination for Indian tourists, and the airline, which is 49 per cent owned by Qatar Airways, is planning to have code-share agreement with Tata Group-owned Vistara to connect its passengers to more Indian cities. WOW air boasts about launching first-ever direct flight between Iceland and India, and giving one-stop connectivity to its Indian passengers to 13 north American destinations.
The launch of these flights is coming at a time when domestic carrier IndiGo is mulling over introducing flights to Western European destinations with Airbus A321LR. Also, Kuwait's budget airline Jazeera Airways has recently announced that it would add Delhi as its fifth destination in India.
In a dampened global aviation market, what's prompting foreign airlines to plan their expansions in India. The biggest pull factor remains the high passenger growth that India offers to the international carriers. For instance, in each month, the growth in the international passenger traffic (outbound and inbound combined) for nine months in 2018 exceeded the growth for the corresponding nine months of the last year. In September, the international passenger growth stood at 4.9 per cent, one of the lowest in the current year, as per DGCA.
The foreign carriers have a majority share - 59.4 per cent in July-September period - in the international traffic segment, led by Middle-east carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways. For the record, the maximum international passengers were carried on the Dubai-Mumbai sector followed by Dubai-Delhi.
Data from the global aviation body IATA shows that Asia Pacific is not only the biggest aviation market in the world - 33.7 per cent share in September - but also the fastest-growing in terms of demand - 6.7 per cent in September - among its peers (Africa, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and North America). The growth in the Indian and Chinese markets contributes the highest to the Asia Pacific region.