Airlines, both domestic and international, are increasing the number of flights between India and the US, raising the prospect of a 5-10 per cent drop in fares.

Government-owned Air India has announced a non-stop flight between Mumbai and New York from August 1, four days before Jet Airways is to start flying from Mumbai to New York with a Brussels stop-over.

Continental Airlines, the world’s fifth largest airline, will also launch daily non-stop flights between Mumbai and New York/Newark from October 31.

Continental is already operating a Delhi-New York non-stop service since 2005. While Delta Airlines is operating a non-stop Mumbai-New York flight, American Airlines has a non-stop service to Delhi-Chicago.

“With the carriers like Jet Airways and Continental Airlines starting new services to the US (both from Mumbai), the fares are bound to fall by 5-10 per cent due to introductory and promotional fares,” an executive of a Mumbai-based travel agency said.

Air India Chairman and Managing Director Vasudevan Thulasidas said Air India would be the first Indian carrier to start non-stop services to the US adding, “It will be a premium product over current international carriers operating non-stop services to the US”.

“The India-US route is witnessing high load factor. Fares may go down as a part of aggressive marketing initiatives by carriers launching new services. But this will be strictly for the initial three months,” said a Jet Airways executive.

Jet Airways is also planning to start daily services from Delhi to Toronto via Brussels by the end of the year. It has also firmed up plans to operate 10 daily flights, between Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Chennai to Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, respectively, with a stop-over in Brussels.

Vijay Mallya-promoted Kingfisher Airlines is also planning to start non-stop services between Bangalore and San Francisco, and Mumbai and New York, by early 2008.

“The India-US route is the most lucrative one for carriers. Apart from business travellers, over 1.5 million passengers are travelling on this route. This market is growing at 10 per cent. Though there is a marginal decline in passengers of passengers owing to the increasing number of professionals returning to India, the US is still an attractive market for airlines,” says an aviation industry expert. Source: BS