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AI to make Chennai airport a major hub

By Our Special Correspondent

CHENNAI, JULY 26. Air India has drawn up a commercially workable blueprint to make the Chennai and Kochi airports the third and fourth major hubs of its network.

Detailing the national carrier's plans to strengthen its vital gateways by providing more direct non-stop flights to South East Asia, Far-East and Australia from Chennai and to the Gulf region from Kochi, Mr. V. K. Verma, Commercial Director, told a news conference here today that with the acquisition of four leased- Airbus-310s, the airline's upgradation plans were getting push in the global market.

With the acquisition of two Airbus-310s from GECAS, a subsidiary of the General Electric Company and two from the Singapore Airlines, all under a dry-lease arrangement, and two more Airbus jets to join by the end of November and February next the airline would be in a position to create over half a million seat capacity into its network.

``We expect a 10 per cent overall growth in the AI operations'', Mr. Verma said, adding the Chennai-base was top in the airline priority to make it the most vibrant hub because of its strategic location, only less than a four-hour air link time to Singapore, and Bangkok.

Answering a question whether the airline would provide a direct link to the West from Chennai, Mr. Verma said that with the available medium-sized fleet, this long-haul link would not be feasible both operationally and commercially.

Mr. Verma, who flew down from Mumbai to Chennai to launch the direct bi-weekly AI Chennai-Hong Kong-Chennai Airbus-310 service from tonight, said it was a special day for those in the national carrier, as the Hong Kong connection was poised to become a key product among the other links offered out of Chennai.

After monitoring the success of the Hong Kong bi-weekly connection, the airline would chalk out plans to increase the frequency tri-weekly either in its winter schedule or by summer next year.

The Commercial Director, who earlier chaired a review meeting of the Chennai region, complimented Mr. P. Senthil Kumar, Manager- Tamil Nadu, and his team of officials on showing over 15 per cent growth in the region.

Later, addressing the travel-trade and top corporate clientele and cargo agents, Mr. Verma said the Hong Kong link would open up new vistas for south India and Tamil Nadu in particular.

Mr. R. Jagannathan, Executive Director, Ashok Leyland, lit a traditional lamp to mark the inauguration of the service.

Mr. Sanjeev Talwar, Regional Director AI, Mr. V. K. Mehra, Director Engine Overhaule, AI, Mumbai, and Mr. Sudhir Kumar, Chennai Airport Director, were among those who participated in the meeting.

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