San Jose airport lures Indian carriers with sops

By Neelam Mathews, IANS

San Jose : With more Indian carriers tipped to fly to the US, the Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) is positioning itself as a major hub for the West Coast with a host of incentives.

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The carriers being approached by the SJC management include Kingfisher, Jet Airways and Sapphire Airlines, a start-up founded by Rahul S. Puranik, an Indian American pilot based in San Francisco.

The area around SJC is home to over 70,000 people of Indian origin, constituting the largest Asian Indian population in the Bay Area of San Francisco.

Ed Nelson, SJC director of air service development, said the incentives include waiving of landing, navigation and parking charges as well as payment of $250,000 for each airline for joint advertising in India to promote the US destination.

“We are looking at revising the incentives beyond the one year we are presently offering them,” Nelson told IANS.

“The incentives given by SJC are significant,” said Kapil Kaul, the chief executive officer for India at the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, an aviation industry think tank.

“It makes strategic sense to look at SJC for carriers like Sapphire,” he added.

Sapphire plans to launch operations late next year from San Francisco to Bangalore via Munich. Kingfisher is looking at direct flights to San Francisco from the middle of 2008. And Jet too has future plans for the West Coast.

The carriers also have no worries about load factor since the economic boost of Silicon Valley has resulted in many Indian companies establishing their base there. These include Wipro, Mobera Systems and Tech Mahindra.

With US companies like Intel, Yahoo, Adobe, Google and Cisco having offices in Indian cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai, business and family travel between India and the US is getting augmented, said Nelson.

SJC’s biggest competitor remains San Francisco International airport that offers non-stop links with over 29 international points on 25 international carriers. It is also the home base to the newly launched Virgin America.

SJC’s small size with no immigration queues will prove a definite advantage, said Nelson. “We are also connected very well to major cities on the West Coast for Indians looking at onward connections,” he said.

“The super jumbo A380 will be great for San Francisco International airport and Los Angeles where they are preparing for them. SJC is more the 777/A330/340-type airport.”