Paris: After six decades of operations in the Indian sub-continent, French flag carrier Air France is now busy reworking its strategy for the sub-continent with a view to better its share of the growing outbound passenger traffic.
Speaking to Indian media in Paris, Jean-Louis Pinson, Air France's senior vice president for international and the Netherlands division said that India is a destination where the airline would look at deploying its new A380s as and when the airport infrastructure at the Mumbai and Delhi is able to support the aircraft. (See: Air France looking to rework its India plans)
Air France says it has 80 per cent of Indians as transit passengers. Pinson said that Air France would like to be a preferred European airline for the Indian passenger, and that ''we are looking at a long-term investment in this market as the market has strong growth potential.'' Being a strategic market for the airline, Air France has since 2005 ramped up its presence in India.
The airline launched its Bangalore service in 2005, followed by a service to Chennai in 2006. It already offers flights to New Delhi and Mumbai, and has a weekly schedule of 24 flights to India. This has lead to Air France being able to treble its passenger traffic during the last five years.
Reports in the media quoted Pinson as saying that he anticipated "standstill growth" for the current year on account of inflation and competition. However, he thinks that a nine to 10 per cent annual growth on an average could be achievable.
To increase its market share Air France is reported to be evaluating new destinations in India such as Pune, Ahmedabad and Kolkata, even as Pinson clarifies that these are ''only options that are being explored now and nothing has been decided yet''. He was reported to have said that the airline would first like to ''first firm up things in Hyderabad'', and would mull the other cities when ''it is time to look for the next destination''.
German airline Lufthansa had been met with limited success when it launched a service to Kolkata, which it finally had to scale back. For now, Air France's expansion would most likely take the shape of an increased service to existing destinations.