The country's largest airline IndiGo and British carrier Virgin Atlantic have entered into a codeshare partnership as they look to expand their network.
On Wednesday, the two airlines announced their codeshare agreement and the first codeshare flight will operate on September 27. This is the seventh codeshare agreement for IndiGo, which currently flies to 26 international destinations.
The agreement will allow Virgin Atlantic to sell seats to passengers connecting onto IndiGo flights.
Codesharing allows an airline to book its passengers on its partner carriers and provide seamless travel to destinations where it has no presence. Currently, Virgin Atlantic has three daily flights to London, two from Delhi and one from Mumbai
"We are looking to grow in India and exploring all options," Virgin Atlantic's Chief Commercial Officer Juha Jarvinen said. India is the third-largest market for Virgin Atlantic after its home market the UK and the US.
IndiGo's Head of Global Sales Vinay Malhotra said codeshare is key for the expansion of the airline's network. The initial codeshare destinations in India include Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Goa, Delhi and Mumbai.
The additional destinations will include Kochi, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Pune, Coimbatore, Nagpur, Vadodara, Indore and Visakhapatnam, according to a release.
Under the codeshare partnership, customers booking a Virgin Atlantic ticket will be able to fly on the airline's London Heathrow to Delhi and Mumbai flights and connect to and from 7 additional cities in India.
Later this year, the agreement will be expanded to cover a total of 16 destinations throughout India, as well as connections onto Virgin Atlantic's extensive US network operated via London Heathrow, the release said.
IndiGo's Head of Network Planning Abhijit Dasgupta said codeshare is a way to grow the network. Now, IndiGo has codeshare agreements with seven carriers -- Virgin Atlantic, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, American Airlines, Qantas, Air France and KLM. IndiGo operates around 1,500 flights daily and out of them, 150 are international flights.
Meanwhile, Dasgupta also said that cargo has been a bright spot for the last two years, both in domestic and international segments. "We are looking to do more in the cargo space." To a query on competition in the aviation space, he said it is too big a market not to have competition.
"We learn how to compete as well as how to grow... we are concentrated on following our growth path and keep tapping into new opportunities," he added.
Dasgupta also said that discussions are going on with the government on how to facilitate the growth of hubs in India.
On August 23, Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said more wide-body aircraft, anchor airlines at particular airports as well as synergy between domestic and international departures are required to have an international aviation hub in India.