Top Indian airline Jet Airways has postponed its foray into the South African market to concentrate on building its business in Asia and the Middle East.
Voted India’s Leading Airline at the World Travel Awards last year, Jet said this week that it had put on hold “until further notice” plans to expand into South Africa.
In November last year, Jet CEO Wolfgang Prock- Schauer announced that the airline was preparing to start flights between Johannesburg and Mumbai from April this year.
It would have flown the same route as South African Airways, which flies to Mumbai four times a week.
Alex Cost, Jet’s general manager for Africa and the Indian Ocean, told the Sunday Times Extra that “a new commencement date will be advised in the near future, dependent on aircraft availability”.
Cost said the decision to postpone flights from South Africa and Kenya had been taken in view of the airline’s plans to begin operations to other destinations such as China.
Jet also wanted to enhance its US and European routes “as a priority”, although the African routes remained commercially important to the airline.
Cost said Jet was set to launch daily services from Mumbai to Hong Kong and was finalising plans to operate between Abu Dhabi, in the Middle East, and Mumbai.
India’s consul-general in Durban, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who has been pushing for Indian airlines to fly between Durban and the subcontinent, said: “As with any other commercial carrier, Jet Airways will be looking at lucrative yield- bearing routes as a priority.”
But he believed the South African market could sustain two or more carriers, “given the exponential growth in the engagement between India and South Africa in all areas, including economic, commercial and tourism”.
He said statistics showed that the number of Indian visitors to South Africa had recorded the largest increase — 19.1% — of all tourist arrivals in the country.
SAA spokesman Robyn Chalmers said the airline would re-evaluate the Johannesburg-Mumbai route at the end of the year to determine whether there was sufficient demand to increase flights to India.
“Discussions on a possible code-share with Jet Airways were held as part of this strategy,” she said.