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Monday, March 24, 2008

Mallya plans India-China flight

While Naresh Goyal-owned Jet Airways is likely to launch the daily Mumbai-Shanghai-San Francisco flights in first week of May, Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher is exploring the option of having similar flights next year.

Kingfisher executive V-P Hitesh Patel said: "We are getting 10 long-haul planes this year, which will be used for non-stop Bangalore-New York and San Francisco routes and flights to Europe. Next year we will have additional capacity as more planes join the fleet. We are exploring sectors for them and flights in and out of China are being studied."

Kingfisher is getting five Airbus A-330 and an equal number of A-340s this year.

Currently, Air India is the only Indian carrier flying to China while three Chinese carriers - China Eastern, China Southern and China Air - ply on this route. Ethiopian Airlines also has a Delhi-Beijing flight. With its launch in May, Jet will become the first airline to offer a direct non-stop daily China-India flight.

As Goyal and Mallya set up their China plans, the state-owned Air India has also reacted.

For the past four years, it was offering a one-stop flight to China, which is now being changed to a direct one. "We have four times a week Mumbai-Delhi-Bangkok-Shanghai flight from which Bangkok is being omitted from next week. While frequency will not change as of now, we will offer direct flights between India and China. AI will look at connecting more cities like Beijing once the Boeing 787 Dreamliner starts joining the fleet," said Jitendra Bhargava, ED at AI.

Meanwhile, Goyal is learnt to be eying more flights out of China to Canada and US, apart from connecting Indian cities to Beijing. It has approached the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for relaxing pilots' flying time restrictions. Sources said, the airline is studying ultra long-haul flights from China to distant US cities like Vancouver and Toronto.

Last week, India and China had ended months of stalemate when aviation authorities of both the countries allowed airlines of both sides to a maximum of two beyond points in three regions each.

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