Manisha Singhal / Mumbai, Business Standard
For decades, more than 70 per cent of the business and first-class passenger market between India and Singapore has been controlled by Singapore International Airlines (SIA).
But home grown Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines is all set to challenge that with daily flights to the island city starting September 18 from Mumbai, a move that has prompted SIA to respond by adding more India-Singapore flights and increasing discounts.
Kingfisher is wooing SIA’s high-margin business and first-class passengers by deploying the state-of-the-art Airbus A330 and offering premium services.
“We are positioning ourselves as a premium Indian carrier with a ‘wow’ product on the route,” said Rajesh Verma, executive vice-president, Kingfisher Airlines.
“We are aware that there are established carriers like Singapore Airlines flying for years and they have deep pockets too. But we will get loads because we will offer a competitive product at competitive pricing,” he added.
The twin configuration A330 will have just 30 seats on Kingfisher First and 187 King Class seats (which are economy seats — Kingfisher does not have a business class).
First-class passengers will also be pampered with a chef on board, professional bar-tender, a jacket ironing facility and a social area with seat massages
SIA is already responding to the challenge by launching five more morning flights a week from Delhi, taking the total to 14 services a week ex Delhi.
“We are also looking at an increase of frequencies to Bangalore but that is slated for later in the year,” said Foo Chai Woo, general manager India, Singapore Airlines.
“Our aspirations will be to operate double daily to Chennai and Bangalore just like Mumbai currently. Looking ahead, we also need to increase flights to other key cities like Hyderabad as the market develops further,” Foo added.
Singapore Airlines executives said the airline is also offering discounts of between 33 and 66 per cent on return economy fares on its new flights. This will lead to some fare wars on the route as Kingfisher also has to fill its economy seats.
Kingfisher, however, says that it does not want to get into a price war but will respond to any challenge.
Travel trade experts point out that for Kingfisher the timing is right as it will launch just as the leisure season picks up. Load factors during the festival season go up 40 per cent between October and December.