Two years after the deregulation of India’s aviation industry, its largest airlines are setting their sites on the world’s most lucrative travel market – the US. Armed with growing fleets of extended-range Boeings and Airbuses, Air India and Jet Airways are launching one-stop and non-stop flights between the Subcontinent and New York this summer. Departing from Mumbai, the new flights come almost a year after the successful launch of nonstops between JFK and Mumbai on Delta, and Delhi and Newark on Continental. For Jet – which already serves London and will fly the longest first-class bed in the skies – New York is one of numerous new destinations for 2007; others include Brussels, Shanghai and San Francisco.
Jet has also just revealed a private suite concept in first class (pictured). Each 777 will have eight suites with sliding doors, 23-inch plasma screens and wardrobe space on long-haul routes.
Sky-Fi flies again
The end of Concorde services was a big enough blow to civil aviation’s premium sector but when Boeing announced it was shutting down its Connexion in-flight broadband Wi-Fi last summer it seemed the sector was officially moving backwards rather than forwards. When no saviour emerged by year end, Boeing flicked the off switch leaving fans wondering how they would manage their affairs for the next nine hours hurtling over Russia.
While workaholics have been able to catch up on sleep and missed films for the past few months, Panasonic Avionics has been working tirelessly to pull together a consortium to get the world’s more frequent fliers back on the web. At this year’s Aircraft Interiors Show in Hamburg the company announced it had lined up a group of suppliers to bring Wi-Fi back to the world’s major carriers and was hoping to do so by the fourth quarter. With no carrier lined up at the time of going to press, our money is on Lufthansa to jump back on-line first – especially given the fact it has kitted out more aircraft with satellite domes than any other airline.
Eastern Europe is open for business and Wizz Air, the region’s largest low-cost carrier, is helping boost land and property values. Once the budget airlines start arriving, so do the investors and holiday-home buyers. And there are still rich pickings in the region, especially with many of the Balkan nations joining the EU, and hundreds of millions of euros in funds and grants are about to pour in.
Three years ago, land near Bucharest’s Baneasa airport cost about €37 a sq m. These days it costs between €250 and €300. Prices in the nearby suburb of Mogosoaia have almost doubled in the past two years. Property prices have also soared in Poland but there are still good deals to be had: a two-bedroom apartment in a new block in Gdansk costs around €105,000.
Wizz Air follows the money – as well as bringing it in – but its route map is a rough guide to regions worth watching. Cheap, easy travel in an area once cut off from the rest of Europe has caused a psychological and economic shift: suddenly a whole new world is within easy reach.
Wizz Air has five operating bases in the region: Warsaw, Gdansk and Katowice in Poland; Budapest in Hungary; and Sofia in Bulgaria. Its fleet of nine Airbus 320s, each carrying 180 passengers, transported over three million passengers in 2006.
Monocle advises hopping on a Wizz Air flight to Targu-Mures in Transylvania, one of Europe’s most beautiful regions, with its dense forests, pristine villages and historic castles. While its infrastructure is rundown and its economy underdeveloped, its prime location between central Europe and the Black Sea will ensure that both land and property prices rise steadily.
The swanky technoparks of India are a long way from Siberia, but Russia plans to emulate India’s tech boom and turn itself into a highly skilled offshore development centre. Seven technoparks are scheduled to open in Russia this year. There is more to offshoring than call centres; HR, finance and research can all be sent offshore to a country where labour is cheaper. Despite lower wages than in western Europe and a highly educated workforce, Russia is currently hardly on the offshore map. Still, it does have a technical edge. With about 250,000 IT grads a year, it is becoming a force to be reckoned with, claim analysts. But there is a problem: Russia does not equate in western minds with friendly service. So India needn’t worry just yet.
It seems there’s one hot London address for luxury brands: Mount Street. It already has Marc Jacobs and Scott’s, but watch as surrounding streets attract other leading labels.