International airlines like British Airways and Singapore Airlines perhaps became household names in India about a decade or so ago. Aggressive media campaigns by these and other international airlines to capture a part of the huge Indian market meant that people in India became aware of options for flying abroad.
However, many international airlines have been using India as an important point of call for decades. Sample this: British Airways completed 30 years of flying on the Chennai-London route in 2018. Whether a result of colonial ties or business opportunities in India, British Airways first started flying to Chennai in 1988 as a twice-a-week service. Now it flies five times a week to Chennai and also flies to four other cities across the country.
SriLankan Airlines, the national carrier of Sri Lanka, marks 25 years in 2018 since it commenced operations to Delhi. Other than Delhi, the airline also flies to Mumbai, Tiruchi, Kochi and Hyderabad, among other cities.
Singapore Airlines will complete 50 years of flying to Chennai in 2020 and the following year it will be Mumbai’s turn to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Mumbai-Singapore route. Singapore Airlines and Silk Air, a sister concern, fly to over 11 cities in India today.
A lot has changed since these airlines first started operations to India. “In 1993, our Colombo-Delhi flight was twice a week. Now we have two flights a day on this sector. The type of aircraft remains the same, an Airbus A-320, although now we operate the Airbus A-321,” Chinthaka Weerasinghe, Manager Northern India, SriLankan Airlines, says.
And, believe it or not, Singapore Airlines did not exist when the Singapore-Chennai route was launched in 1970. David Lim, General Manager, India, for Singapore Airlines, recalls that back then, Malaysia Singapore Airlines flew the route two times a week with a Boeing 707 aircraft. Currently, Singapore Airlines and Silk Air operate 17 times a week between Chennai and Singapore. Singapore Airlines was born in 1972 when the governments of Malaysia and Singapore decided to spilt Malaysia Singapore Airlines.
09/01/19 Ashwini Phadnis/Anand Kalyanaraman/Business Line