Can Indian airlines break Malaysia's bad luck? | Latest India News


Air Asia launched another flight to India this week. It connected Kuala Lumpur to Bhubaneswar – its hub. By August this year, 17 destinations from India will be connected to Kuala Lumpur. This is three more connectivity than in December 2019, when Covid started affecting tourism in China, Southeast Asia and then the whole world.

Indian airlines have tried several times to add Kuala Lumpur to their networks. Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The number of weekly flights between India and Malaysia has dropped from 233 before Covid-19 to 211 now. However, this number is higher than before. This reduction is due to IndiGo now operating 14 fewer flights per week, a sharp decline of 66% compared to before Covid-19. This data has been taken exclusively for this article from aviation analytics company Cirium.

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AirAsia Bhd, which once had a subsidiary in India as AirAsia India (49% stake), is leading with 94 frequencies a week compared to 90 pre-Covid. The airline is expanding to places like Calicut, Guwahati, Jaipur and other tier II cities that are part of the open skies to ASEAN countries. Malaysia Airlines will have 68 weekly frequencies compared to 60 pre-Covid. This includes launching new flights to Amritsar, Ahmedabad and Trivandrum.

Batik Air Malaysia (formerly Malindo) has seen its number of flights reduced by 20 weekly, from 55 weekly to 35 weekly.

India to Kuala Lumpur
airline Original Flights/week Weekly Seats
AirAsia amd 4 744
Malaysia Airlines amd 4 696
AirAsia X ATQ 4 1,236
Malaysia Airlines ATQ 4 696
Batik Air Malaysia ATQ 3 540
AirAsia BBI 3 540
AirAsia BLR 4 744
Malaysia Airlines BLR 10 1,614
Batik Air Malaysia BLR 3 486
Malaysia Airlines BOM 10 2,510
Batik Air Malaysia BOM 7 1,260
AirAsia CCJ 3 540
AirAsia CCU 7 1,260
AirAsia kolkata 12 2,160
Malaysia Airlines kolkata 7 1,218
Batik Air Malaysia kolkata 4 648
AirAsia X Dale 4 1,468
Malaysia Airlines Dale 10 2,552
Batik Air Malaysia Dale 11 1,980
AirAsia cow 3 540
AirAsia Hyderabad 8 1,446
Malaysia Airlines Hyderabad 7 1,218
AirAsia Victory 4 744
Indigo Mother 7 1,302
AirAsia Mother 14 2,520
Batik Air (Indonesia) Mother 7 1,134
Malaysia Airlines Mother 12 1,948
AirAsia TRV 4 720
Malaysia Airlines TRV 4 696
AirAsia TRZ 17 3,060
Batik Air Malaysia TRZ 7 1,134
AirAsia VTZ 3 540

Indian airlines failed

Indian carriers have tried to add Kuala Lumpur to their networks several times. In the mid-2000s, Air India flew twice a week to Kuala Lumpur with A310s. These were supplemented with flights from Chennai by Indian Airlines and Jet Airways. In the early 2000s the connectivity consisted of just 14 flights, nine by Malaysia Airlines and five jointly by Air India and Indian Airlines. Jet Airways and Air Sahara joined in when it was approved for international flying in 2005. Competition from the Malaysian side intensified after the entry of AirAsia in 2009. Slowly Indian airlines started to exit, Air India, Indian Airlines, Air Sahara, Jet Airways all vacated the route

Will Indian aviation companies be able to make a dent in this?

Malaysia is one of the few countries where this trend is quite pronounced. Though there is more traffic to Dubai or Thailand or Singapore, the presence of Indians there is much higher and sometimes even equal.

News reports and airport listings have shown flights to Kuala Lumpur by Tata Group airlines. There have been no formal announcements, but if and when they are, the focus will not be on traffic between the two countries but on competing with the likes of Emirates and Malaysia Airlines to Europe and North America. Although this means giving up a high-volume origin-destination (OD) market for Malaysian carriers, it would be a wise strategy to survive a cutthroat market in the current times of supply chain disruptions.

IndiGo has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Malaysia Airlines to implement codeshare and partnerships in the future. If that happens, will the airline introduce additional flights to Kuala Lumpur? IndiGo has shifted from KLIA 2 to Terminal 1 (KLIA), where it was operating from when it started flights, which will help in seamless transfer.

Tail Note

Around 4,000 passengers travel non-stop between the two countries, with some travelling via Singapore or Thailand to work or holiday in the neighbouring country.

In Thailand and Singapore, local airlines and Indian airlines are neck-and-neck in terms of capacity. Malaysia, which is in between, has had a tough time doing this. Will Indian airlines be able to do this in the future?

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