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  • Writer's pictureSatish Kamat

Haven't Air India Earned The $1B Opportunity To Stage-wise International Flight Open?

Updated: May 1, 2020

With Coronavirus pandemic, PM Modi has made a strong decision to protect India and Indians by closing Air Travel. This was a timely decision, as it was through air travellers, the pandemic started. As May 3rd approaches, it is crucial that Air Travel is opened carefully, in a stepwise manner. There is also financial considerations.

I wonder if bringing back Indian Students from US and other countries provide an unique opportunity to achieve this, while ensuring Air India (and possibly other Indian airlines) are able to charge for its services to this captive audience. Given that Spring Semester in Western Countries ends in first or second week of May, about 100,000 Indian Students in US will be looking to return India. Remember most of them are Indian citizens, while others are OCI residents (Indian Permanent Address.)

By allowing only Air India to bring these students back, country may benefit as follow: 

1. Air India gets to start with a well defined, smaller group of travellers to ensure a slow but steady scale up to full opening of Air Travel. The learnings from this could be incorporated as they scale up the passenger load. Some of things like.

  • 2 seats in a row of 3

  • No food service during the flights. Bring your own food from Airport or so.

  • Wearing Mask with full shirts n paints. -Flight-wide Disinfection

  • Making All these flights Direct, with no stopover.

  • Flights in US can start from International Airports nearest to multiple universities: like SFO, LAX, NY, EWR, ORD, ROC, etc. 

  • Flights could be directly to major cities in various state, instead of just four metros.

  • Other learnings could be how to handle immigration and airports by limiting how many flights in a given duration, say few hours to a day, how to board or boarding time with social distancing.

2. Air India can charge About INR 100,000-125,000 fare for this special mission (US recently charged $2000-2500 for similar mission). This will ensure Air India rightfully is rewarded during this bad economic time, along with serving the nation.

3. The travel can start from May 3 with about 10 flights a day, and can scale up to 30 flights a day, by end of the week. Assuming a 200 seat capacity, average ticket of INR 175,000  (economy + business + first class), each flight could bring in about $500,000 per flight. Assuming just 50,000 students availing this facility, this will need 250 flights over May 03-May 18. So the US alone will bring in revenues of about US $125 Millions to Air India. When one add full US, UK, Canada & Australia, this number may be more like $1 Billion. Also, the experience and head start will ensure Air India becoming a preferred carrier for Indian students. 

The return flights can be used to take foreigners and Indians who need to leave India. Thus ensuring a service and revenues. This experience can be then repeated from 10th May to bring back other stranded Indians across the world. 

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