The ban on large electronic items by western countries has provided for an opportunity for airlines and airports in India to reclaim traffic that has over the years moved to Gulf airlines and their hubs in West Asia.
Air India, the only Indian carrier to have a direct flight to the US, is planning new flights, apart from publicising that flyers can use laptops and devices on board. Pakistan International Airlines is advertising that passengers on its US-bound flights can carry laptops and tablets.
“We will launch one more direct connection to the US, either Houston or Los Angeles. We are negotiating slots with airport operators,” Air India’s Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani told Business Standard.
The airline will use the Boeing 777-200 LR aircraft for this purpose. This will be after the launch of the Delhi-Washington service, which will begin in July.
A Jet Airways executive said the airline expected its occupancy to rise above 90 per cent as a result of the ban. “This being the leisure season, our occupancy was healthy. Now, we expect a further improvement in load factor,” an industry source said.
The UK has followed the US ban, saying it too will immediately impose device restrictions, but it added flights from Tunisia and Lebanon to its list and excluded those from the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Morocco.
According to aviation consultancy firm CAPA, the major Gulf carriers carried 49 per cent of US-bound passengers from India in 2015-16.
Frequent flyers said it was an ideal opportunity for Indian carriers and airports to reposition themselves.
“It would be ideal if Jet Airways mounts a direct flight to the US with a Boeing 777. What Air India needs to do is improve its services and in-flight amenities,” said Ajay Awtaney, a writer of airline blog livefromalounge.com.
A Jet Airways spokesperson refused to comment on the issue. Etihad Airways, which holds a substantial stake in Jet Airways, is affected by the ban.
An executive with Delhi International Airport Ltd said a surge in passengers on Indian airlines would be beneficial for the airport operator. “International transit passengers are good for airports, but primarily it is for the airlines to explore this opportunity. We as an operator will support them,” he said.
Travel agents said this was an ideal time for travellers to book tickets on Gulf airlines. “The carriers affected by the ban may drop ticket prices to compensate for loss of traffic,” said Anil Punjabi, president of the Travel Agents’ Federation of India.