New Delhi: With many non-metro cities demanding air connectivity, Air India is gearing itself to cash in on the opportunity by adding more aircraft to its fleet and introducing flights to these new destinations.
The national carrier is also considering introducing flights on the existing routes during non-peak hours connecting tier-II and tier-III cities with the metros.
"At present, about 42 cities - with more than one million population - want air connectivity from metro cities. We are doing feasibility study about the possible load and ways to connect those towns," a senior Air India official said.
We are getting requests from small towns like Bhagalpur in Bihar, Deogarh in Jharkhand, Agra and Gorkhapur in Uttar Pradesh to begin air services, the official said.
"But for this, we will have see if there is required infrastructure or not," he said.
In an effort to connect more tier-II and tier-III cities with metros, Air India has launched Delhi-Gwalior-Mumbai-Gwalior-Delhi, Delhi-Ranchi-Delhi and Delhi-Kanpur-Kolkata-Kanpur-Delhi flights recently.
Apart from these, Air India is planning to launch Delhi-Vizag-Chennai-Vizag-Delhi, Delhi-Coimbatore, Delhi-Vadodara-Surat, Delhi-Port Blair flights in the next phase.
Besides Delhi, Air India is also planning to make another hub at Guwahati to provide better connectivity to northeast.
"Since Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India, is providing connectivity in north-east, we are planning to make Guwahati a hub for that region. This would connect the region to the rest of the country as Guwahati airport has night landing facilities, unlike other airports in the region where flight operation is suspended after the sunset," the official said.
The national carrier is planning to operate flights with either twin-engine turboprop ATRs or Canadian Regional Jet aircraft.
"We have planned to operate ATRs between the cities which are at distance of one-and-a-half flying hours and CRJs on routes which have flight time of more than one-and-a-half hours," he said.
Since Air India and its subsidiary Alliance Air is facing acute shortage of aircraft to begin new service or redeploy the existing ones, it has planned to induct 43 ATRs and CRJs.
The official said due to unavailability of aircraft, flights from some of the existing and profitable routes were withdrawn but to be in the market "we have got more planes".
"We have just four CRJs, but we have planned to take on lease 16 48-seater and 72-seater ATRs, as leasing can be done with the approval of our board," the official said.
Besides these measures, the airline would be recruiting new airhostesses to give a young look to its cabin crew.
The company will not only recruit girls from metros and big cities but also from small towns.
"We are planning to recruit around 700 cabin crew this year. To give a young look to our cabin crew, we would be recruiting women up to 25 years of age," the official said