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Airlines from UK allowed to fly to 3 south Indian cities

Our Bureau

New Delhi , Sept. 20

IN a move intended to facilitate the travel of international passengers from India - especially south India - to the UK and onwards, the designated airlines of the UK have been allowed to operate flights to Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kochi.

This was decided at the conclusion of the air services bilateral talks between the two countries. During the meeting, both sides agreed to increase the number of direct flights between the two countries from 19 per week to 40 a week on each side. However, the increase in flights is to be in a phased manner.

During the first phase, which comes into effect from October when the airlines' winter schedule become effective, the airlines of the two countries will be allowed to operate seven more flights.

Besides, the agreement also allows them to add seven more flights from the summer schedule of 2005, which comes into effect from end-March /early April next year. In addition, the current round of successfully negotiated bilateral air service talks also allows the airlines to add seven more flights during the winter schedule 2005.

An official statement issued at the conclusion of the talks adds that the airlines of Britain, apart from being required to operate seven flights each to Delhi and Mumbai, the remaining flights can be operated to a minimum of two southern cities which have been made available to the UK side.

However, which of three designated airlines from Britain - British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and British Midlands - are finally given permission to operate the additional flights is yet to be firmed up by the British authorities.

During the talks, it was also agreed that airlines from India would be allowed to operate directly to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Bristol, in addition to London, Manchester and Birmingham.

At present, while British Airways operates 15 times a week, including offering a daily flight to Delhi and Mumbai, Virgin Atlantic operates three times a week on the London-Delhi-London sector.

Similarly, Air India operates at least 15 flights a week to London, including 12 operated with its own aircraft and three in code-share with Virgin Atlantic.

In a statement, British Airways has said that it is set to expand its business in India.

"We have been committed to increasing the number of flights to cities where we already fly. Besides we look forward to the possibility of starting flights to new destinations such as Bangalore and Hyderabad," the airline's General Manager, South Asia, Mr Andy Stern, said.

Similarly, Virgin Atlantic said that it plans to operate at least a daily service between London and both Mumbai and Delhi.

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