London, Nov 22: The number of passengers flying
directly between the UK and India has more than doubled during
the last two years due to liberalisation of bilateral air
travel, resulting in availability of greater choice and
capacity, combined with cheaper fares.
Between October 2004 and October 2006, the number of
direct services between India and the UK more than tripled
from 34 to 112 service per week, provided by a combination of
pre-existing carriers offering more flights and the arrival of
new carriers in the market.
As a result of liberalisation that began two years ago,
India has moved from seventh to fourth most popular long-haul
destination after the US, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.
A report published today by the UK civil aviation
authority, on the eve of the European Union/ India Aviation
Summit in Delhi, claimed that the UK/India market is a
showcase for the benefits of aviation liberalisation.
Services are more frequent, and use a wider range of
destinations in India, while increased competition and
capacity has led to substantial reductions in air fares.
Passenger numbers have reached more than two million a
year in the last two years from one million, with a big
increase in direct business travel.
Harry Bush, CAA director of economic regulation, said the
expansion had followed the move by the two governments to look
"Beyond the narrow interests of their flag carriers when
deciding what is in the national interest".
"We see more competition, lower fares and greater route
choice driving growth in trade and tourism, helping strengthen
the already close ties between the UK and India," Bush said.
The dynamic development of the market led initially to
four more carriers, Virgin Atlantic and BMI British Midland
from the UK and Jet Airways and Air Sahara from India,
entering the market.
Virgin Atlantic developed its network from just three
services a week between London and Delhi to include daily
flights to both Delhi and Mumbai. Jet Airways, the privately
owned Indian carrier, has grown from none to 24 services a
week flying between London and Mumbai, Delhi and Amritsar.
The report has also examined the evidence for the
indirect impacts of liberalisation on trade and investment
between the two countries, and found that companies place
considerable value on the quality of aviation links in their
Trade and investment has been growing at a considerable
rate since liberalisation, and the report noted that better
aviation links are likely to have contributed to this growth.
The increase in direct business travel between the two
countries is particularly notable in this regard.
There has also been a big increase in leisure travel,
particularly travel from the UK to India, and as a result of
the overall increase in traffic, UK airports are gaining more
revenue from landing charges and consumer expenditure at
airports. The vast majority of a new services have been
concentrated on Heathrow, with Birmingham being the only
regional airport benefiting from new direct services.