Air France, Lufthansa, and British Airways to reduce Bangalore and India operations

European majors Air France, British Airways, and Lufthansa are reducing their flights to the silicon city of India and the home of Bangalore Aviation — Bangalore.

Air France and Lufthansa cut frequency

From the soon to start Winter schedule, Air France and Lufthansa will reduce their current daily operations to six flights a week. Air France flies an Airbus A330-200 on the Bangalore Paris CDG route, while Lufthansa flies a Boeing 747-400 on the Bangalore Frankfurt route.

Coincidentally, both carriers will remove their Tuesday operation.

Smart reduction by British Airways across India

British_Airways_Boeing_747-400_G-CIVP_One_World_LiveryBritish Airways too will downsize its operations to Bangalore, but from the Summer 2010 schedule which commences end of March.

In a smarter move compared to its two European counterparts, British Airways will reduce its daily Boeing 747-400 to a daily Boeing 777-200. It is when airlines cut frequency, that passengers start looking for other options.

The 777 will be a three class configuration without the First Class, i.e. Business, Economy Plus and Economy. Again a smart move since Bangalore is a corporate destination and traditionally Bangaloreans and companies based here, have always looked to value for money.

The Winter schedule is the peak season for travel for India with millions coming to India for the holidays, while Summer is the peak season for trans-Atlantic travel. To best capitalise, British Airways is replacing all of its 747 operations with 777 operations across India in the Summer 2010 schedule and will expectedly deploy the 747s on trans-Atlantic routes.

A summary of the changes expected.

Bangalore (BLR)
7 x 747 with First >> 7 x 777 no First

Mumbai (BOM)
7 x 747 with First >> 7 x 777 with First
7 x 777 with First == 7 x 777 with First

Delhi (DEL)
10 x 747 with First >> 7 x 777 with First, 7 x 777 no First

Hyderabad (HYD)
5 x 777 no First >> 5 x 767 no First

Chennai (MAA)
5 x 777 no First == 5 x 777 no First

Nasty immigration rules

Most European carriers are suffering the results of immigration rules of their respective countries that can only be termed as nasty. Most countries require “transit visas” for passengers who are merely connecting to another flight. Not only do they add needless costs, they also create a sense of demeaning, and sure enough when there are missed connections, bureaucratic snafus that result in travel ordeals for the passenger and PR nightmares for the airlines.

The litany of incidents where passengers are forced to spend the night on terminal floors with little or no food or water thanks to these snafus occur with such regularity that the stiffest British upper lip, most efficient German, or completely aloof Frenchman, go running for cover.

The Gulf carriers enable passengers to bypass these visa rules while offering new lavish airport terminals and fantastic shopping.

The “Gulf Factor”

Pride may lead European airlines to deny it, but they cannot ignore the “Gulf Factor”. Led by Emirates, gulf carriers are marching across the Indian skies. Since 2008, Emirates has been steadily crowding out both foreign and Indian competitors. British Airways withdrew from Kolkata while Lufthansa cut back frequencies. KLM withdrew from Hyderabad, and Air France and Singapore Airlines cut back on Chennai. With Qatar Airways and Etihad not too far behind Emirates on their Indian expansion plans, the future scenario does not show improvement for the European carriers.

As an example; the number one destination from Bangalore is San Francisco. Emirates offers the same one stop service via Dubai to San Francisco as any other European. Add to this low pricing, good service and fast connections, Emirates is poaching passengers from all the European carriers, repeating what it is doing across the globe.

Unfortunately European carriers are suffering the results of their governments’ immigration policies and need to work with their governments to help prevent further erosion of their Indian market share.

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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