All Nippon Airways to increase India frequency

Sunday, 30 March 2008, 07:00 Hrs
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New Delhi: Japan's All Nippon Airways is increasing its Tokyo-Mumbai service to seven days a week from April 12 from the present six to tap the robust demand on the sector, airline officials say.

"We believe there is a strong demand for business travel on this route," All Nippon spokesperson Rob Henderson said, adding that the airline enjoys a 60 percent load factor on the sector despite an all-business configuration.

"When the service goes daily and becomes more convenient for business travellers we hope the load factor will increase," Henderson told IANS on phone from Tokyo.

The frequency, he said, was being expanded within seven months of launching the service in a bid to meet the business requirements from Japanese firms on the back of India's rapid economic growth.

Currently, one Boeing 737-700ER aircraft fitted with extra fuel tanks allows the airline to make the 6,700 km journey between Tokyo and Mumbai. The service has 36 business-class seats.

All Nippon is now pulling out a second aircraft from its Nagoya-Guangzhou route and refitting it with auxiliary tanks to expand the service. The India sector is the only one that has jets fitted with extra fuel tanks, the official said.

"Business people require, above all, flexibility from an airline schedule. This can only truly be provided if the fundamentals are in place - in other words, a daily service," said Shuichi Fujimura, head of network planning.

The business-class market with India has grown with 190 Japanese firms having a presence in the country. The objective is to cater to the Japanese businessmen setting up base in India and Indians doing business with Japan.

The cabin of a 737-700 generally accommodates 136 passengers in an all-economy configuration.

"With just 36 all-business-class seats, or a combination of 24 business and 20 enhanced economy seats, we would continue to offer customers a rarefied space, along with greater flexibility," Fujimura added.

"The Japanese are canny travellers. If the service and products were comparable elsewhere, including service in the Japanese language, we are sure that they would consider other airlines too," Henderson said.

The airline has no other Indian cities planned for the moment, but the airline's officials said they would like to add service to other cities in India.

All Nippon is reportedly the first carrier in Asia to offer business class-only flights following the recent trend set by Britain's Silverjet and the US-based EOS.
Source: IANS
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