Kingfisher going international; fast-growing UK-India markets gets a fifth competitor

Image: Kingfisher launches its first international route
Kingfisher has launched Bangalore – London Heathrow services. Flights are operated using brand new A330-200. “At a time when many airlines are rolling back on their network, I feel that the carefully selected routes that Kingfisher Airlines will serve have great growth potential. International traffic demand in and out of India remains robust and the unique ties between Britain and India generate attractive additional opportunities,” said Dr. Vijay Mallya, Chairman and CEO, Kingfisher Airlines.
Image: Kingfisher International Route Launch featured in Deccan Herald 5th September edition
Big news in Bangalore – coverage of Kingfisher’s landing at London Heathrow in today’s Deccan Herald, Bangalore’s biggest selling daily.

This week saw the first international flight (from Bangalore to London Heathrow) of an airline that seems destined to become a major global player in the years ahead. Kingfisher Airlines, set up by the flamboyant “Branson of Bangalore” Dr Vijay Mallya began Indian domestic operations back in May 2005 with a fleet of Airbus A320s and A319s. Under Indian rules airlines are forbidden from operating internationally until they have operated domestically for at least five years. Kingfisher has got round this problem by acquiring Air Deccan which began operating low-fare flights in August 2003. According to Indian government figures, in March 2008 Air Deccan (now rebranded as Kingfisher Red) and Kingfisher had a 29% share of Indian domestic passengers.

Kingfisher took delivery of its first two A330s in June and these will operate the daily service from Bangalore to London in direct competition with British Airways. Slots for this route have apparently been acquired from the co-ordinator’s “pool” though a planned Mumbai to Heathrow service starting this winter is believed to be ‘borrowing’ slots belonging to KLM.

UK – India market benefits from increased liberalisation.

Up until 2004 the UK-India market was around one million passengers per annum, but capacity was severely restricted due to the air services agreement between the two countries which suited both flag carriers. Since 2005 additional frequencies have been negotiated allowing a controlled increase in available capacity plus the introduction of new carriers such as Jet Airways and now Kingfisher.

Chart: UK - India air traffic 1998-2007
Source: UK CAA Airport data

Flights to Mumbai and Delhi have consistently represented around 70-75% of passenger traffic between the UK and India. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air India and Jet Airways all operate at least daily services from Heathrow to both Delhi and Mumbai. From early December British Airways will become the first carrier to operate non-stop from Heathrow to Hyderabad when it starts five-times weekly 777 services. Hyderabad will thus be BA’s sixth Indian destination.
Apart from a thrice-weekly Air India 777 service between Birmingham and Amritsar all scheduled services operate from Heathrow.

According to the UK CAA passenger survey of Heathrow in 2006 an estimated 45% of passengers to/from India were originating in the UK while 55% originated in India. Business traffic represented just 27% of traffic with two-thirds originating in India. Back in November 2006 the UK CAA published a case study report on the development of the UK-India market examining the impact of increased liberalisation.

Goa is a leisure destination and is served by charter airlines primarily from London Gatwick and Manchester.

Image: Kingfisher Airlines chairman Vijay Mallya and John, COO, Airbus
Earlier this year, Kingfisher exercised its options to buy five more A380s, meaning it now has 10 A380s on firm order. Pictured are Kingfisher Airlines chairman Vijay Mallya and John Leahy, COO, Airbus.

Non-stop or connect via Middle East or Eurohubs?

According to survey data from UK airports in 2007 ( around 10% of traffic flying on Emirates to/from Dubai (around 200,000 annual passengers) are connecting there for onward connections to/from India. Similar connections to a range of Indian destinations can be made on Etihad and Qatar Airways. Emirates serves nine Indian airports from Dubai, while Qatar Airways serves eight from Doha and Etihad six from Abu Dhabi. Other options exist for UK regional passengers who may prefer to travel via one of the major European hubs such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Paris CDG or via Jet Airways’ mini-hub at Brussels.


  1. Sumit says:

    Kingfisher , British Airlines, Virgin and Indian should start daily london amritsar flights. Instead of competing on well served and low demand Banglore and Bombay routes to London , they should start Amritsar London route where Jet Airways currently charges double the normal fare due to high demand and monopoly. Kingfisher has no idea of demand supply and is only going to make loss by flying to london from indian cities where there is no demand or various alternative low cost routes exist.

  2. Bicky says:

    yes more flights should start from Amritsar to north america and and middle east.

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