Passengers shun Chinese carriers, Air India to benefit from traffic curbs

Air India’s (AI’s) non-stop flights to Canada and the US will get a fillip as the novel coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak curbs traffic flow via China and Hong Kong. Over 5.4 million passengers flew between India and the US in the 12 months ended September 2019. Around 25 percent of passengers flew non-stop between the two countries; the rest flew via hubs in Dubai, Doha, or Frankfurt.

Around 5.7 percent of the India-US traffic and 8 percent of the Delhi-US traffic traveled one-stop via China and Hong Kong during the period. Hong Kong and China are popular transit hubs for Canada-bound passengers from Punjab because of low fares.

The suspension and curtailment of flights between India and China will help AI and other airlines increase their seat occupancy and market share, say, travel agents and aviation experts. AI operates 36 flights per week to the US and Canada and earns around 12 percent of its revenue from North American routes.

“We are seeing a shift in traffic flow from over the Pacific to over the Atlantic. About 10 percent of bookings to the US and Canada via East Asia have been cancelled,” said Amey Amladi, chief operating officer of Akbar Group, one of the largest travel agencies in India.

“The main beneficiary will be Air India, followed by the Gulf and European airlines, which offer capacity and competitive fares — this being a lean season for travel,” he added.

“Before the outbreak of the nCoV, China Eastern Airline tickets to Toronto and Vancouver were selling like hot cakes — these were around 15-20 percent cheaper than the rest.

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