Air India Express Eyes ‘Huge’ International Expansion

Routes to destinations in China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam are being evaluated by the LCC.

Credit: Ocean Driven Media
Tara Naidu, Chief of Commercial at Air India Express.

Air India Express is eying more international connections from second and third tier cities in India as part of a “huge” expansion plan over the next five years.

Chief of Commercial Tara Naidu said the LCC intends to rapidly grow its network under new owner Tata Group, maintaining its strategy of offering inter-regional routes within a six-hour stage length.

Speaking at Routes Asia 2022 in Da Nang, Vietnam, Naidu outlined 30 countries that are being explored by Air India Express, including Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam.

“There are some markets where there is no direct connectivity, which is strange because they are huge markets,” she said. “We believe that it’s going to be a win-win for us—it will stimulate growth of tourism in both directions and ease business connectivity.”

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Air India Express currently serves 19 destinations in India and 14 international points, with aircraft bases at Cochin (COK), Delhi (DEL), Kozhikode (CCJ), Mangalore (IXE), Mumbai (BOM), Thiruvananthapuram (TVR) and Tiruchchirappalli (TRZ).

Unlike its parent Air India, which operates a hub-and-spoke network, Air India Express flies high-density point-to-point routes, targeting markets with large flows of migrant workers, as well as VFR and leisure traffic. Dubai, Sharjah and Muscat are among its largest international destinations by capacity.

Naidu said Air India Express hopes to add more aircraft in the near future to its current fleet of 24 Boeing 737-800s. She added that it also wants to implement new interline and codeshare agreements with other carriers.

“This will give us additional market reach and access to market segments we wouldn’t have otherwise,” Naidu explained.

Tata completed the acquisition of the Air India group from India’s government in January and in April began the process of consolidating Air India with domestic carrier AirAsia India.