In an effort to retain market leadership in the India-UK sector, British Airways is opening a new sector this year and has initiated steps to upgrade existing products and services. The airline announced on Wednesday a new direct flight from Hyderabad to London Heathrow starting October 28, 2008.
"Hyderabad is the next obvious choice after Bangalore. We expect encouraging response for this service. We intend to stay big in India," said Robert James Baird, area general manager, Asia & Pacific, British Airways.
The airline would operate five flights a week from Hyderabad and will be the only carrier to offer direct flights from 6 metros to London. Currently, it operates 43 flights per week, which include double daily services from Mumbai and Delhi to London, three times per week from Kolkata, five flights a week from Chennai and a daily operation from Bangalore. In October 2005, the airline had 19 flights a week.
The flights to be operated on the brand new Boeing 777 will depart at 0715 IST and arrive in London Heathrow at 1300 GMT. Return fares start at Rs 26,000 (excluding taxes, fees and charges).
Hyderabad has a vast community of professionals working in the IT, business process outsourcing and biotech industries who constantly fly overseas on work and this market is being aggressively wooed by all carriers.
Over the last two years, Indian carriers, most specifically Jet Airways, have been gradually becoming popular.
According to Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal, his airline has acquired a market share of more than 30 per cent.
But British Airways is not keen on increasing market share by incurring losses. "We want to grow the market by remaining profitable. Many people have lost huge amount of money by chasing market share and we are not in that race," Baird said.
He said British Airways has an average seat load factor of 85 per cent in this sector. Baird also said that British Airways passengers would have a great time ahead as the airline moves to the new terminal 5 at London Heathrow from March.
This terminal would be for the exclusive use of British Airways. He said Heathrow would continue to be Europe's largest hub despite several new hubs coming up in other European countries.