NEW DELHI: Expanding its footprint in India, Malaysia’s Malindo Air, in association with Thai Lion Air, will start a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Varanasi on July 18.The airline has also announced connecting the holy city with other Southeast Asian cities such as Don Muan (Thailand), Singapore, Jakarta, Bali (Indonesia) and Hanoi (Vietnam), as Malindo looks to capitalise on pilgrim and tourist traffic.
Price of one-way ticket from Varanasi to Kuala Lumpur on economy class has been kept at Rs 20,437, while that for business class is priced at Rs 45,623.
According to news website nst.com, there will be three flights per week with a total capacity of 486 seats.
Sulaiman Suip, director of Tourism Malaysia in New Delhi, said tourist arrivals from India in the first three months of this year grew 18.6 per cent due to easy air links and a hassle-free online visa process.
Malindo Air, which began flying to India in December 2013, sees the potential to attract both inbound and outbound travellers. Beside Varanasi, Malindo has presence in major Indian destinations such as Amritsar, Bangalore, Delhi, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Trivandrum and Tiruchirappalli.
According to aviation consultancy firm CAPA, India is a very important destination for Malindo.
“India has been an important market for Malindo ever since its launch in the country; it is now Malindo’s second largest international market (after Indonesia), accounting for 17 per cent of its total international seat capacity,” CAPA said in a recent report.
It says that although Malindo is unable to expand in Indian metros due to caps imposed by bilateral aviation pacts, it has been active in looking for new secondary destinations such as Varanasi that enjoy open skies.
“Varanasi may have the added advantage in terms of demand as it is also primarily a sacred pilgrimage destination for Hindus around the world,” the airline’s chief executive officer Chandran Rama Muthy said.