Airline helps tourism take off
WHEN Air-India evacuated more than 100,000 Indian nationals from Kuwait to Amman after Iraqi forces invaded the Persian Gulf kingdom, the Guinness Book of Records listed its achievement as the largest airlift in civil aviation history.
The Indian national line took 59 days and 488 flights to complete the operation.
Sixty-two years ago, when J. R. D. Tata and Englishman Nevill Vintcent started the airline that was to become Air-India, they had two second-hand De Havilland Puss Moths.
Their inaugural flight from Karachi to Bombay in 1932 was also the beginning of India's airmail service.
Air-India is now an international name with a modern fleet serving over 40 cities worldwide.
At the end of World War II, the airline changed its name to Air-India and this year is the 40th anniversary of its operations to the territory.
In Hong Kong, Air-India is enjoying a period of growth.
The rupee, previously a protected currency, can now be converted for business purposes. This means more Chinese and Westerners who are based in Hong Kong are forming business links with India, in addition to the Indian population.
''Eighty per cent of our passengers are Indian,'' said Dhanoo Khusrokhan, manager for Hong Kong, Macau, the Philippines and China.
''Hong Kong has a large ethnic Indian community with close ties to India who travel there frequently for business and to see their families.'' Within the next few years, there are plans to fully convert the rupee, which will also benefit the airline.
''With the liberalisation of business in India, trade with Hong Kong is increasing,'' said Ms Khusrokhan.
She described the load factor for passengers and cargo as ''very good'' with a seat factor of 75 to 80 per cent.
Last October, Air-India added flights to Durban, Dar es Salaam and Johannesburg to its regular, long-standing destination services.
''Tourism is India's most important trade. Last year, we were able to increase the frequency of our flights between Hong Kong and India from two to four times a week. As conditions stabilise in the country, there will be a growth in tourism,'' said Ms Khusrokhan.