Singapore Airlines targets south India

CHENNAI JAN. 25. With the Singapore Airlines (SIA) all set to introduce a tri-weekly service to Bangalore from May 1, it not only expands its South India coverage, but opens up a fierce race in the South East Asian sector as the Malaysian counterpart, Malaysia Airlines System (MAS), is also readying to step up its operations.

The SIA's entry into Karnataka region is expected to pave the way for cut throat competition in the sector, where the bulk of the traffic is "labour" oriented.

The Malaysian Government issued a directive that "labourers" who are intending to fly to Kuala Lumpur could apply for "work permit visa" only when the applicants submit a MAS ticket, protecting the national carrier's interest.

Amidst this backdrop, travel trade sources here point out that with Bangalore becoming an on-line station in the SIA's network, airlines operating on this sector would not only attract the "labourer traffic" but woo the corporate clientele with their aggressive marketing techniques, offering convenient onward connections out of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

At present, the SIA operates daily flights out of Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi besides three out of Kolkata. And with its subsidiary airline, Silk Air, Kochi is served by four flights and Thiruvananthapuram and Hyderabad three each. "SIA strongly feels that India is a very important market, especially the South Indian destinations, because of the growth in the Information Technology sector", SIA sources added.

While the MAS at present operates 18 flights a week on the India-Kuala Lumpur route, with Chennai connected with daily service, once-a-week out of Hyderabad, twice out of Bangalore, four each from Mumbai and New Delhi, and with plans to augment further on the Bangalore and Hyderabad points, taking full advantage of the cyber-savvy States, the MAS authorities are happy over the growing prospects of tapping the "ideal ethnic links and enhancement of frequency of flights".

With a mega "showcasing Malaysia" campaign being organised in India for the fifth time, the MAS is confident of achieving a growth of over 40 per cent. Opening of Visa collection Centres in Bangalore and Hyderabad further helped the airline to have an edge over others in the highly competitive market.

Meanwhile, enquiries with the Indian Airlines authorities reveal that the domestic carrier operates daily services to Singapore from Chennai and Bangalore besides linking Kuala Lumpur daily from Chennai.