Kingfisher begins Bengaluru-Dubai service

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India's Kingfisher Airlines started its much-delayed direct once-daily service between Bengaluru and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday.

The carrier is operating an Airbus A320 on the route, with Dubai becoming its fourth international destination after London, Colombo and Dhaka. It also plans to link Dubai from New Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram and Hyderabad in India in the coming months, says a spokesman. The airline had planned to start the Bengaluru-Dubai service in February, but delayed it several times without giving a reason.

Kingfisher also plans to fly to Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait this year, and include Qatar, Bahrain and Oman in the second phase of its expansion into the Middle East. The airline has said previously that it also hopes to fly to Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur.

Kingfisher is the dominant player in the Indian domestic market, carrying 1 million passengers in May for a 26% market share. However, the airline has been losing money and is seeking bank loans. It has cancelled or delayed taking delivery of several aircraft that it had ordered, and has been returning leased aircraft.

Indian airlines, which have grown rapidly over the last few years, have come up against strong headwinds since the global economic crisis spread to the country last year. Most are not profitable, several have merged with each other, and analysts predict that there could be further consolidation in the market.

Kingfisher itself formed an alliance last October with Jet Airways, which has the second largest domestic market share, in order to keep its costs down and merged with low-cost carrier Deccan in early 2008.