Singapore Airlines' Vistara has launched between New Delhi and Singapore
Aviation experts have played down the potential battle for the skies over India between Emirates and Singapore Airlines.
It comes as Singapore Airlines launched the inaugural service of its unprofitable venture, Vistara, between New Delhi and Singapore, earlier this month, thus aiming to take a big bite out of the lucrative Indian passenger pie.
According to the International Air Transport Association, the number of passengers in India will more than triple to 520 million by 2037.
Delhi-based researcher Shafeeq Rahman told Arabian Business: “According to the latest released data for the financial year 2018-19, Gulf countries make up 31.45 million (49.33 percent) out of a total of 63.55m scheduled international enplaned and deplaned air passenger traffic in India.”
Vistara, which is 49 percent owned by Singapore Air and 51 percent by Indian conglomerate Tata Group, operates 30 Airbus SE and Boeing Co jets and is understood to be planning flights to Dubai and Bangkok.
Buy Saj Ahmad, chief analyst, StrategicAero Research told Arabian Business he doesn’t see a threat to Emirates from the launch.
He said: “Emirates’ position in India will not come under too much pressure – simply because the ex-pat community that works in the wider UAE as well as those who connect in Dubai can only really travel to Europe via Dubai and benefit from shorter flights and by implication, better fares, than flying out to Singapore first for a longer, more costly journey.”
Dubai and Singapore already enjoy a fruitful relationship – Dnata is the ground handler and cargo and logistical partner at Singapore’s Changi Airport.
But Mark Martin, founder and CEO of Martin Consulting India, warned: “There is a level of cordiality and amicability between the two but when it comes to the airlines the gloves are off.”
And he told Arabian Business any tensions between the two airlines would only benefit passengers.
“We’re not going to see this snowball out of proportion, but we will certainly see a sense of some ‘healthy competition’ where one takes shots at the other. But the people who gain from this is you and I, it’s the common traveller who benefits the most,” he added.
Due to the large NRI population across all the Gulf countries and the emergence of Dubai as a major transit hub and a place of celebration and shopping for Indians, the majority of air traffic from the Gulf from the region to India, in 2018/19, has come from the UAE (60 percent), followed by Oman (11.19 percent) and Saudi Arabia (10.06 percent).
Among India's top ten busiest routes, five come from the Gulf region, between Dubai and Mumbai, Delhi, Kochi, Hyderabad, and Chennai.
Far from being competition to Emirates, Ahmad said that the launch may end up having a detrimental impact on Singapore Airlines themselves.
He said: “That its (Vistara) first international flight is to Singapore is no coincidence, but I would argue from another angle that this may well take away traffic at the lower price, higher volume end from Singapore Airlines over time. Whether that’s what the grouping wants to do, I’m not sure, but that will definitely be an impact point.”
Both Emirates and Vistara were approached by Arabian Business, but declined to comment.