Flying high in Tier-II, III cities
Airlines are gradually realising the potential of Tier-II and Tier-III cities, leading to an evolution in aviation that has never been witnessed before.
Consider for instance the opportunities that an international airline like flydubai offers smaller cities like Lucknow, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram when it connects them to a hub like Dubai. Or how Tigerair is connecting the ‘Land of Nawabs’ to the rest of the world by flying directly from Singapore to Lucknow.
Anand, MD of Nagpur-based Jagsons Travels, gives his vote to this trend. “Qatar Airways recently introduced daily operations in Nagpur after almost seven years connecting over 150 cities globally to Nagpur and neighbouring areas like Wardha, Akola, Gondia and Gadchiroli that now have direct access to international flights. Air Arabia has been operational in Nagpur with four weekly flights connecting it to most parts of the Middle East and Africa, all the way up to Turkey. Now, the connection is beyond the Americas,” he says.
Sunil B. Satyawakta, MD of Lucknow-based Civica Travels and Chairman (Uttar Pradesh & Uttarakhand Chapter) of Travel Agents Association of India, echoes this view. Airlines today are studying new routes to connect Tier II cities with each other and the metros. This minimises flying time, prevents transits at metros (saving high UDF), saves on fuel costs and decreases load on ATCs,” he adds.
Biji Eapen, Chairman and CEO of Kochi- based Speedwings Aviation Academy and National President of IATA Agents Association of India ( IAAI), adds, “The government aims to develop airports in smaller towns and offer incentives to carriers operating with less than 100 seats. Also, the decision to waive landing and night parking charges for small aircrafts will attract carriers to operate to non-metro airports. But the trend to have more international flights arriving in smaller towns will not cut costs for fliers. This may help foreign tourists but will warrant an adverse economical situation.”
What airlines say
AirAsia India recently added Vizag, Guwahati and Imphal to its network and according to Mittu Chandilya, CEO and MD, AirAsia India, all three destinations are doing well. “Connecting the underserved destinations has always been in our plans. It is important to stimulate traffic from and to these destinations as there is so much we can explore in these markets,” he says.
Tigerair is another international airline that has shown an appetite for this. Teh Yik
Chuan, Director, Sales & Marketing, Tigerair, states, “Currently, connectivity is mostly to larger cities but the desire for air travel among individuals in secondary cities is rising as is their capacity to spend.” Sachin Nene, Regional Manager – India for Air Arabia, says that India’s potential cannot be ignored. “There are a lot of people from these cities who want to travel to other parts of India and the world. But currently they have to use gateways like Mumbai and Delhi. So we make their lives simpler and connect the rest of the world to their homes,” Nene opines.
Regional Manager India Air Arabia
Director Sales & Marketing Tigerair
CEO and MD AirAsia India
Managing Director Jagsons Travels
National President, IATA Agents Association of India (IAAI)
Chairman (Uttar Pradesh & Uttarakhand Chapter), TAAI