Air India is planning to revive some international routes in Africa which became defunct in 2006-2007. Increase in the number of Indians living in Kenya and Tanzania is one of the main reasons why Air India feels it could be commercially viable to revive these routes.
In the recent past, Air India has launched operations in Vienna and is also planning to launch operations in Washington and Copenhagen.
“A lot has changed since 2006. There are Indians now living in Kenya and Tanzania. I know of many Indian teachers who are living in Kenya and Tanzania. Commercial viability of an international route depends on the passenger load factor,” said Lally Matthews, Secretary of Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO).
Although India has bilateral agreements with several African countries like Kenya, Zambia, Seychelles and Yemen, most of them are not being utilised. Air India is operating its flights only to South Africa at the moment. According to the tourism industry, many expatriates mainly from Gujarat living in Kenya and Tanzania who would like to visit India.
Air India officials said government support from Kenya and Tanzania is also a criterion for launching the operations.
“The government must agree on the number of passengers that is to be carried from Kenya and Tanzania. A separate agreement is signed for that,” said K R Krishnan, Senior V-P of travel consultancy firm, Nivalink.
In order to promote its business interests, Air China operates to Kenya and Tanzania. Likewise, India also needs to increase the business opportunities for Indians by launching direct flights to Kenya and Tanzania, he said. “If Air India operates to Kenya and Tanzania, business is also expected to grow as India can export a number of commodities to these two countries,” said Krishnan.
Only a few airlines like Emirates and Etihad operate to Kenya and Tanzania. “Today all the flights which go to Kenya and Tanzania are through Dubai. One has to wait for almost six to eight hours in Dubai before embarking on a flight to Kenya and Tanzania. So a direct flight to Kenya and Tanzania will certainly help,” said Sanjeev Joshi, director, Tourism India Management.
Air India has sent a survey team of officials to Kenya and Tanzania and has received reports regarding the potential of launching such an operation. “We don’t hire a hotel at market rates and therefore we have to see which hotels are there in Kenya and Tanzania,” said an Air India official.
Outbound tourism is also growing to Kenya and Tanzania as the wildlife safaris in these countries are a major tourist attractions.
“Passenger load factor and cost of operations are two of the main factors in deciding if the airline will launch operations on a certain route. Also Air India will have to see which aircraft are supported by the airports in Kenya and Tanzania,” said an Air India official.