Immense Opportunities in India For Aeroflot – Aviation Consultant

© Sputnik / Ruslan Krivobok / Go to the mediabankAn Aeroflot Boeing 767, right, at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow
An Aeroflot Boeing 767, right, at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow - Sputnik International
When Aeroflot decided to expand to Southeast Asia, it chose India as its first destination and since then Aeroflot has been continuously operating the Moscow-Delhi route. The first regular flight between Moscow and Delhi took place on August 18, 1958, on a Tu-104.

New Delhi (Sputnik): As Aeroflot, the state carrier of Russia, celebrates the 60th anniversary of its Moscow-Delhi route, Sputnik talked to Amber Dubey, a partner and head of aerospace and defence at global consultancy firm KPMG, about passenger expectations and the opportunities India offers Aeroflot.

Sputnik: Aeroflot is celebrating its legacy of 60 years of operation connecting India with Russia and Europe. What kind of opportunities is the airline looking at for expansion of business in India?

Amber Dubey: Given Russia's unique geographic location, it offers an attractive option for flights to Canada and northern USA through the polar route. Aeroflot's code-shares with Delta gives it access to all key locations in the US. There's a large Indian diaspora in and business travelers to North America. A lot of that traffic passes via the Gulf hubs. The bilateral quotas between Indian and most Gulf countries are nearly exhausted. India is not increasing the quotas, to protect the interests of its own carriers.  The existing Indo-Russia bilateral quota is anyways heavily underutilized. India's National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP 2016) has announced open skies with all countries beyond 5,000 km from India.

Aeroflot, therefore, has a strong opportunity on the Indo-America route via Moscow.  The ticket-pricing, additional goodies and layover time at Moscow may have to be tweaked to make it competitive vis-à-vis the strong gulf carriers. 

An Aeroflot Airbus A320 passenger airliner takes off from Sheremetyevo international airport. - Sputnik International
India-Russia Collaboration Can Change Global Aviation - Indian Minister
Sputnik: What is the general scenario of outbound travel by Indians?

Amber Dubey: Aeroflot is the logical choice for Scandinavia, the Baltic republics, and Eastern Europe, most of which are not well connected to India by air. 

The successful conduct of the FIFA World Cup has given a tremendous boost to Russia's image as a safe, beautiful country with friendly, fun-loving people. It is time for Aeroflot to seize this opportunity and expand its presence in India.

There's a boom in outbound travel by Indians. Around 25 million Indians traveled abroad in 2017. According to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), outbound travel from India may double to 50 million by 2020. That's a whopping increase of around 26 percet per annum. No wonder the Indian market is being wooed by all the leading global carriers. 

Sputnik: How is operating flights in India different from operating elsewhere?

Aeroflot plane with WWII anniversary livery - Sputnik International
Aeroflot India Focuses on Providing World-Class Service for Passengers - Manager
Amber Dubey: Except for a small minority, most Indian travelers are extremely price-conscious. Aeroflot may have to come up with extremely competitive pricing vis-à-vis the Gulf carriers. It may provide additional benefits like visas on arrival, three-day stay packages in Russia, including a train trip to Saint Petersburg for a small additional fee, etc. 

As oppose to western travelers, a significantly large section of Indian tourists travel in families or large groups. Many of them are finicky about food choices, especially vegetarians. Many tour operators arrange for Indian cooks to travel with them. Aeroflot may decide to have special packages for large groups with India-specific food choices as a key differentiator.

Sputnik: Given the Indian government's initiatives in promoting tourism, do you predict an increase in inbound traffic?

Amber Dubey: Inbound tourism to India is also growing thanks to an aggressive "Incredible India" marketing campaign by the Indian government. 

Aeroflot can play a big role in collaboration with Indian carriers through code-shares.  t has an interline agreement with a leading Indian carrier. That can be strengthened further through joint marketing. 

The views and opinions expressed by Amber Dubey in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sputnik.

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