India Insight

BA’s Kingfisher deal ups pressure on India’s airline regulators

Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of British Airways, is not afraid of conflict. Having tackled investors who have seen the airline struggle through two years of substantial losses and stared down continued industrial action from his cabin crew, he’s now set his sights on India’s civil aviation regulators.

A British Airways passenger jet taxis past parked BA jets at Heathrow airport in London July 30, 2010. REUTERS/Luke MacGregorWith the ink barely dry on BA’s merger with Spain’s Iberia, the recently-announced code-share agreement with India’s Kingfisher Airlines marks the UK flagship carrier’s first tentative step into the Indian aviation market. While current rules do not permit any foreign ownership of Indian carriers, he has made it clear that reforms are needed.

“If the rules change, not just British Airways, all airlines around the world will look at the possibility to invest in Indian carriers. I have no doubt Indian carriers would welcome such foreign investment because airlines are looking at strengthening their financial position. Also, consolidation will help. We will be looking at opportunities in the future. We are sponsoring Kingfisher Airlines into Oneworld (a global grouping of airlines) because India is such an important growth market and we want to participate in this growth,” Walsh told India‚Äôs Mint newspaper in an interview.

His sentiment is clear. The code-share agreement, which begins on 15 September and will allow customers to book journeys encompassing both airlines’ networks on each other’s websites, and BA’s sponsoring of Kingfisher to join the Oneworld global airline alliance, are tentative steps in the British airline’s desired move into the Indian market.

And Kingfisher isn’t the only airline in Walsh’s targets. As the Financial Times reports, BA executives have drawn up a list of 12 carriers across the globe that they are interested in buying or merging with.

Tears, threats, triumph in Jet Airways layoff drama

jet.jpgI was on a Jet Airways flight from Delhi to Mumbai on Wednesday, the day the airline said it may lay off a further 1,100 employees in addition to the 800 it had retrenched.

Outside the Delhi airport, TV news channel vans had lined up; inside, Jet staff at the counter tried not to meet the sympathetic eyes of passengers. Aboard the aircraft, which had telltale empty seats, newspapers folded into seat pockets had headlines of the layoffs.

I wondered if any of the efficient stewards and stewardesses had been tempted to rip off the covers, or if they were just relieved they were not on probation.

How safe is flying in India?

rtr1pgsg.jpgSometime ago a passenger in the United States was off-loaded when she jokingly asked the cabin crew if the pilots were sober.

But as a frequent flier I wonder if it’s an impertinent question to ask Indian pilots.

Why? Sample this: Around 50 pilots each year in India are grounded because they had consumed alcohol before flying, the country’s civil aviation authorities say.

Do India and U.S. have more in common than they think?

First impressions count. That’s true no less with airports, the gateway to a globalised world for any country.

Which is why the United States and India may have more in common than they like to think.

A passenger carries luggage as an airhostess waits outside a terminal at an airport in New Delhi March 12, 2008. REUTERS/Adnan AbidiI have been one of those thousands that have spent three hours in Delhi International Airport making it from check-in though to the boarding gate. Which is why I read with interest the recent spat between deputy planning chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and civil aviation minister Praful Patel over who is responsible for the chaos.