After getting the Force India Formula One team off the grid at the Australian and Malaysian Grand Prix, Vijay Mallya is back in the flying seat of Kingfisher Airlines. The mission: getting the airline on the international routes.
Though as per current regulations Kingfisher cannot go international, Mallya is evidently putting his blueprint in place so as to lose no time when the time comes.
The airline is setting up bases at several airports outside the country, especially the US and Europe, and is tying up with hotels, caterers, service providers and agents. Senior officials are being sent out to get various clearances from airports and civil aviation authorities of other countries. When the launch comes, the marketing and related services would be well in palce.
Over a 1,000 cabin crew (all female) are being given training in Mumbai and Bangalore to fly in the international sectors.
Kingfisher is currently India’s only airline rated five star by Skytrax. Service is known to be the strong point of Kingfisher Airlines, and Mallya evidently hopes to cash in on this advantage during the international foray.
Kingfisher Airlines would begin taking delivery of its pending order of Airbus A340-500 aircraft in June this year. As many as 136 cabin crew would be attached to each plane, and would begin training with the actual planes when they are received, till they are deployed.
Pilots have been also trained for undertaking ultra long haul flights connecting Bangalore and San Francisco. Other destinations in the plan include New York and several European countries. Mallya has been always keen on operating non-stop flights.
Recently, the government approved Deccan to fly overseas from August 27, 2008 and the ongoing merger process between Deccan and Kingfisher Airlines should help Mallya’s overseas ambitions for Kingfisher. Under ideal circumstances a change of the airline’s name from Deccan to Kingfisher could solve the problem, but Mallya is ready for any eventuality.
“At the worst, if Kingfisher is now allowed, Deccan will fly international. It does not take much time to change the colours of an airplane,” said a top executive.
But that would be a last-ditch scenario.