Appreciate Indian govt's idea to make Air India a strong player in intl market: Lufthansa CEO

Doha, Jun 21 (PTI): 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.

For example, 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 US with one stop in Dubai.

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.

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.

We are back to 42 flights per week to India. And we want to go back quickly to 56 flights per week, which is what we had pre-pandemic. So, 14 additional flights, which would be two flights per day, we would like to ramp up in our network to India, he added. He said the demand for seats is very strong to and from India.

When asked about what kind of partnership is Lufthansa Group is looking for in India, he replied, Our partner is Air India, also here in Star Alliance. And we are watching very closely what is happening with Vistara, what is happening with other carriers, but at this point there is no news.

Star Alliance is a global grouping of 27 airlines, which includes United Airlines, Lufthansa Group, Air Canada, etc. Currently, Lufthansa Group operates 42 flights per week connecting India with Germany and Switzerland.

While Lufthansa airline operates flights on Frankfurt-Delhi, Frankfurt-Mumbai, Frankfurt-Bengaluru, Frankfurt-Chennai routes, Munich-Delhi and Munich-Mumbai routes, SWISS airline operates on Zurich-Mumbai and Zurich-Delhi routes. Before the pandemic, the Lufthansa group used to operate 56 per week on the aforementioned routes.