Even as the National Aviation Co of India Ltd (NACIL) changes its name back to Air India Ltd from today, the national carrier has ambitious plans to turn around the loss-making airline. These include ceasing hub operations at Frankfurt, converting subsidiary Alliance Air into a full-fledged regional carrier and beginning domestic low-cost operation through Air India Express.
Plans have been finalised to stop 'scissor' or hub operations from Frankfurt from 31 October, and the six flights which converge there at present will be converted into direct operations to Europe and the Americas.
Not only will cancelling hub operations at Frankfurt save the national carrier Rs200-250 crore every year, this move will also bring in smaller Indian cities into the airline's international network because the direct connections bring into the international fold cities such as Ahmedabad.
The current New Delhi-Frankfurt-Toronto connection would become Amritsar-Delhi-London-Toronto; Delhi-Frankfurt-Newark will become direct between Delhi and Newark and this may be extended to Hyderabad later. The earlier practice of routing passengers from Ahmedabad, Delhi and Mumbai and from Chicago, Toronto and Newark to Frankfurt will be discontinued.
The airline also plans to convert Alliance Air into a full-fledged regional airline - which means connecting a major city with several smaller stations in each region.
At the moment, the Alliance Air hubs are only in Delhi and Kolkata and new ones may be created at Chennai, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. This will improve overall connectivity within the country besides also allowing passengers from smaller Indian cities to get seamless international connectivity by linking up with Air India.
Air India also plans to rebrand its international low-cost subsidiary Air India Express, and commence domestic low-cost operations by it, as well as move Air India Express headquarters from Mumbai to Thiruvananthapuram.