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Kingfisher finally puts together a reasonably credible international network

From Monday this week, Kingfisher Airlines launched three more new international routes, from New Delhi to Kathmandu and from New Delhi and Mumbai to Dubai.

Kingfisher now flies its luxurious wide body Airbus A330’s to London and Hong Kong from Mumbai and Delhi, and to Singapore from Mumbai and it operates two-class A320s featuring the very posh Kingfisher First cabin from Mumbai and Delhi to Bangkok and Dubai and from Chennai to Colombo. The Kolkata Bangkok and Dhaka, and Bengaluru Dubai sectors are operated with a single class A320.

Learning from past mistakes

Kingfisher appears to have learnt from its initial disastrous international foray almost two years ago. It made a horrendously expensive acquisition of Air Deccan, primarily to meet the five year operating requirement of the Government of India. It bought five Airbus A330s, most of which remained on the ground while it operated a sole Bangalore London flight, which in turn was savaged by predatory pricing by British Airways on this route. Kingfisher never put together a feeder network from Bangalore to South and South East Asian nations which would put bodies in those empty seats nor did it ever put together any connectivity to the United States, which is the primary destination of Bangalore. Just some of the reasons which weakened Kingfisher’s ability to fight competition from all the European carriers, forcing it to cancel its maiden international flight in September last year.

Bangalore de-focussed

Airlines Share of Bangalore Bengaluru Market by flightsBangalore is considered home to the UB group parent of Kingfisher Airlines.

However, it is clear that Kingfisher has abandoned all plans of making Bangalore an international hub instead taking steps to make Mumbai and Delhi as its hubs.

Despite the significantly higher competition, and an almost saturated airport, Mumbai provides volumes. Delhi with its upcoming Terminal 3 and volumes will provide a great platform for the airline to offer transits and transfers both within and outside the country (Read analysis of Kingfisher’s ex-Delhi international operations).

Over the last few years, as competition in Bangalore has grown, Kingfisher has reduced its flight operations at Bangalore by almost 40%, and most of these are now flown by small ATR72-500 turbo-props. Even the much maligned model of the Kingfisher Airbus at the entrance of Bengaluru International Airport has been removed.

Despite this, Kingfisher still retains the top spot at Bangalore in terms of flight operations.

A bright future?

The new consultants and feedback from the aviation community appears to have impacted the airline’s top management. Decisions are a lot more scientific and lot less reckless. Cohesion in the airline’s employees has increased, and tight control on costs are bringing profits back. The impending induction of Kingfisher in to the oneworld alliance too will bring its benefits in time to come.

In the short-term the airline has a mountain of debt of climb, and if there is any further international routes expansion, one can only expect these on short-haul routes which can be operated by A320’s, since all five A330’s are fully deployed and the airline does not have any plans of additional wide-body aircraft acquisition which are needed for the long distance routes.

Competition is fierce on both sides of India and on both sides of the value equation. The Gulf carriers including low cost flyDubai and Air Arabia on the west, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways along with lost Air Asia and Tiger Airways on the east, and low cost SpiceJet and soon IndiGo right from the heart of India — Delhi.

Time will tell, but for now it appears Kingfisher has ridden out the economic storm and is on the way to flying itself out of trouble.

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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