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Will Kingfisher succeed in its restructured international operations?

It is official. From September 15th, Kingfisher Airlines will restructure international operations from its “home town” Bangalore. The airline’s first international flight Bangalore London Heathrow will be suspended on September 15th. Bangalore Colombo will stop a day later.

It is important to understand some of the factors that led to the demise of these flights:

  • Bangalore is the technology capital of India and the preferred destination is the United States. There is very limited O&D traffic between Bangalore and the UK certainly never enough to fill an Airbus A330.
  • Kingfisher’s London flights had inconvenient timings for onward connections from London to leverage the US traffic
  • The poor slots at Heathrow forced Kingfisher to use two aircraft instead of one.
  • Even on the India side, Kingfisher did not leverage its position and provide connections to ASEAN destinations like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok which could have been easily served by it’s swank Kingfisher A321 and A320 fleet and which would have increased the potential customer base in all directions.
  • The ridiculous visa requirements of the British government for transit passengers coupled with high airport fees both of which discourage transit through London.
  • The Bangalore London flight was launched in September last year with only three weeks notice. If Kingfisher did not know how to spell Hara Kiri earlier, they sure do now.

On the same day it will suspend the Colombo service, September 16th, Kingfisher has announced it will use the two Airbus A330-200s currently operating the Bangalore London sector to commence services from Mumbai to Singapore and Mumbai to Hong Kong. The magic question is, will they? The last time, the flights were withdrawn at the very last minute citing “in flight entertainment system problems”.

Other than the Mumbai Dubai and Mumbai London sectors, I cannot think of two more competitive routes from Mumbai. At the same time, Kingfisher has also applied for permission from India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for permission to fly the Delhi London route using an A330-200.

While there is significant O&D traffic between Delhi and London, which suits Kingfisher’s lack of onward connections at London, Kingfisher will be the sixth non-stop flight between the two capitals, and this does not include the competition from all the European and Gulf carriers. Will Kingfisher force Virgin Atlantic out of this route like it did in Mumbai?

All carriers except Kingfisher will also have access to the transit passenger traffic and the fact that Kingfisher has joined the oneworld Global Explorer fare will not really help since it is not part of the oneworld alliance, whose members already operate to five gateways in India including Mumbai and Delhi.

Is Kingfisher doomed to repeat the same mistakes again?

Kingfisher has also applied for permission from DGCA to launch the following routes:

Delhi – Bangkok daily flights using an A320.
Delhi – Dubai daily flights using an A321 or A320.
Mumbai – Colombo daily flights using an A320
(to replace the suspending Bangalore Colombo service which feeds the London flights)
Mumbai – Bangkok daily flights using an A321 or A320.
Mumbai – Dubai daily flights using an A321 or A320.

The Mumbai – Dubai sector is one where Kingfisher can employ its fifth A330 which is currently stored at Bengaluru International Airport. There is a significant upmarket demand on this sector, and none of the Indian carriers offer a wide body service. In addition there is plenty of cargo business that can be leveraged by Kingfisher.

Hopefully Kingfisher can make a success of creating hubs in Mumbai and Delhi, but I do temper my optimism with the fact that Kingfisher could not make a success in a limited competition market like Bangalore while Mumbai and Delhi are a free for all markets with the biggest baddest 800,000 pound gorillas Kingfisher will face in terms of competition.

What are your views? Post a comment.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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