Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 October 2020

Air India Express: the low cost subsidiary that links continents

The Indian airline was launched in April 2005 to better connect the Arabian Gulf and South-East Asia

Air India Express is the low-cost subsidiary of flag-carrier Air India. Headquartered in Kochi, in Kerala, its secondary base is in Kozhikode – the city where the plane skidded off the runway after the flight from Dubai.

The airline was launched in April 2005, carries 4.3 million passengers a year and claims to have a 13.3 per cent market share in the India-Gulf travel market.

“Air India Express was launched … with the objective of providing convenient connectivity to short/medium haul international routes in the Gulf and South-East Asia at affordable fares,” its website reads.

It says its network reaches more than 33 destinations.

The Dubai-to-Kerala route is one of the busiest operated from the UAE.

It is estimated that about one-third of the UAE's three million-plus Indian residents hail from Kerala, and there are long-standing economic ties between the prosperous southern state and the Gulf nations.

Friday night's Air India Express service was one of the hundreds of repatriation flights running each month between the UAE and India.

The flights, which started on July 12, return Indian citizens to the UAE during a two-week window of repatriation flights, as part of India's Vandhe Bharat mission to bring expats home.

The mission has since been extended several times, with about 90 flights due to fly between the UAE and India from August 1 to 15, and another 100 or so in the second half of the month.

To date, about 275,000 Indian expats have returned home, India's consulate in Dubai said last week.

This was the third Air India Express flight from the UAE to south India to crash on landing in the past decade. The previous incident was on June 30 last year, when a Boeing 737 overshot the runway in wet conditions at the Mangalore airport in Karnataka state. None of the crew or passengers was seriously injured.

However, a similar incident at Mangalore airport on May 22, 2010, claimed the lives of 158 people out of 174 on board. The plane overshot the runway, also in wet conditions, and plunged into a forested valley before bursting into flames.

The airports in Mangalore and Kozikhode, which is also known as Calicut both have tabletop runways – located on a plateau adjacent to a valley or gorge.

Updated: August 7, 2020 10:28 PM

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