India’s national airline, Air India is planning to expand its foreign operations. The flag carrier has plans in place to start new flights to several key cities across the US and Europe as well as in West-Asia, Gulf, East-Asia and Australia in the Pacific region over the next year.

The Indian carrier will increase the frequency of flights where demand is growing. With more than 20 new 787 Dreamliners in place and half a dozen more to arrive, Air India is well prepared to expand its reach into the foreign markets.

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Ashwani Lohani, Air India Chairman and Managing Director was quoted by Mail Today as saying: “We are increasing our thrice-a-week flight to San Francisco to six days a week and for our direct connect Melbourne and Sydney are soon going to become five day-a-week schedule instead of the earlier three and four days schedule respectively.”

“We are soon connecting to Madrid in December and may open up our new destination in the United States on East Coast in Washington DC in April 2017.

“And in between that, we are planning to start another sector which could either be Copenhagen or Stockholm – to cater to traffic to Scandinavian countries. This operation may work out by January to February 2017,” Lohani said.

“There are a few new destinations, considered to be favourite of Indian tourists which will be included in the new plan. Nairobi is one such destination and we are looking at the market input and will take a call on that soon.”

Air India faces tough competition from Dubai-based Emirates, which has an almost equal market share in terms of flyers going abroad from Indian cities. However, the national carrier is steadily raising its foreign market share.

Air India’s Director (commercial) Pankaj Shrivastava adds: “The demand is growing for Air India-when we launched our Vienna sector, we were almost booked for three months, last season. This prompted us to venture into European destinations.”

Air India is also planning a direct flight to Tehran.

“Most flights are via Dubai… a direct connection between Delhi and Tehran or Mumbai and Tehran is needed with demand growing from budget and skilled workers going there,” Lohani said.

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