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Now direct Newark-Ahmedabad flights from April

Monday, 17 February 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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AHMEDABAD: Come April, passengers from the U.S. can fly directly to and from Gujarat without changing planes at Mumbai.

Air-India is all set to advertise the two jumbo jet flights from Ahmedabad to Newark, New Jersey, via Paris.

The two Boeing 747s that Air-India will use to ferry passengers to and from Ahmedabad twice a week -- Tuesday and Saturday -- have been taken on dry lease.

"It will be a boon for U.S.-bound Gujarati passengers for they will not have to change planes at Mumbai," an Air-India official here told IANS.

Under its new schedule, Air-India will offer 400 additional seats for West-bound passengers from Ahmedabad every week.

Currently the airline operates three flights on the Paris-Newark route with a net 600 passengers per week capacity and five flights on the London-New York route for 760 passengers. There are also three flights on the London-Chicago route with 600-passenger capacity, making the net load from Ahmedabad 1,960.

Air-India currently operates Airbus 310 for all these flights. The plane has below 200-seat capacity versions, which cater as connecting flights to jumbos originating for Western destinations from Mumbai.

The shift to jumbos out of Ahmedabad could also bring cheaper fares. Concessional rates proposed by Air-India are not being implemented now because of a capacity crunch, said an airline official.

The 747s will fly to Newark after a brief halt at Mumbai, thereby also catering to passengers headed for Chicago. "They (Chicago-bound passengers) would have to change craft at Mumbai," said Air-India the official.

The decision to bring in planes with higher passenger capacity assumes significance in the light of the fact that Air-India has been incurring heavy losses due to a space crunch on the ex-Ahmedabad routes.

"Availability of seats from Ahmedabad had become a perennial problem as it was difficult to cope with the demand with the limited number of seats," said the official.

Airlines like KLM, British Airways, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Cathay Pacific, Gulf Air, Air France, Royal Jordanian and Kuwait Airways made profits by tying up with Indian Airlines and Jet Airways to extend connecting services from Ahmedabad.

The changes are likely to fetch Air-India 4 billion more in revenue. Of this, 70 percent will come from U.S.-bound routes. Air-India is also planning an additional flight from Ahmedabad to Newark from May.

According to Ahmedabad Airport director V.K. Yadava, the airport can handle one jumbo at a time. But handling more than one flight simultaneously could be slightly difficult considering the capacity of the lounge.

"Although a plan has been sanctioned for additional building, it is still at a nascent stage," Yadava said.

Source: IANS
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