Emirates, the UAE’s national carrier, is looking into a codeshare deal with Tata Group-owned Air India as it prepares to expand globally with a record aircraft purchase, according to a top Emirates executive.
“Discussions (with Air India) are in their early stages. They’re preoccupied with the merger and other matters. So far, just preliminary discussions have taken place, and we’ll see how things progress.”Mohammad Sarhan, vice president India and Nepal Emirates
He stated that Emirates is looking to partner with a powerful and premium airline like Air India to operate on the subcontinent.
Air India has signed contracts for 840 aircraft (470 fixed orders and 370 options), including wide-body aircraft.
“You know, United and Emirates used to be competitors, but today they are closest buddies. Just now, a codeshare was signed. We once had trouble with Air Canada. We are now close friends. We will eventually be quite close to some Indian carriers, in my opinion” explained Sarhan. We want India to be a reliable partner in the future.”
According to data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for the months of October through December, Emirates, with a nearly 10% share of both inbound and outbound international traffic in India, is the largest foreign carrier and third largest overall, after IndiGo and Air India.
“Partnership with a premium airline is (Emirates’) best course of action going forward. We do have interline agreements with nearly all Indian airlines, but they are not as good as codeshares, which offer a single ticket, one fare, the same luggage allowance, and the same service every time. We maximise the routes, we market to that airline and they market to us. We feed into them and they feed into us,” he continued.
“Emirates has attempted a codeshare in India before. A codeshare deal between the airline and SpiceJet had been signed in November 2019, but it never took flight for a number of reasons, including covid and a mismatch between a full-service airline and a low-cost carrier. Neither side turned on the codeshare. We only want to partner with full-service premium airlines that make sense and complement us because we are a full-service carrier.”Sarhan said
Emirates has been attempting to increase flight operations from India since 2014, but under the bilateral agreement between the two nations, has only been authorised to operate 65,000 seats for Dubai. Now, the Indian government wants Indian carriers to grow to Europe and the Americas and to restrict international carriers by not allowing them to expand foreign flying privileges.
Sarhan is optimistic that with Indian airlines’ rising desire to extend international flights, the demand for more bilateral trade between India and the UAE won’t be only one-sided.
“The need is great. There is enough pie for everyone. Though the Indian carriers are also missing out on this significant demand coming from Dubai, we are undoubtedly missing out on some traffic. I anticipate Indian carriers would make the request fairly soon,” Sarhan added.
Emirates presently offers flights to nine main Indian cities, but it sees opportunity in adding direct service to Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns including Surat, Lucknow, and Amritsar. Now, the airline and its sibling airline flyDubai share bilateral flight rights.
The airline continues to regard India as one of its top five markets, including the UAE, the US, Australia, and the UK, with a load factor of almost 90% since resumed operations in India.
“The Indian market is not slowing down, in our opinion. It is robust and expanding. We are taking pleasure in that and moving along with the current. We are also astonished by the demand; it is very strong, and the prices keep rising. We keep raising the prices and the demand keeps rising; we don’t see any slowdown.”
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