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Air France-KLM extends India reach with Jet Airways partnership

[NEW DELHI] Air France-KLM Group and Jet Airways India Ltd agreed to deepen an existing partnership with offerings on India-Europe routes together, giving the biggest European airline better access to the world's fastest growing major aviation market.

The latest deal will offer travel options for 44 cities in India and 106 destinations across Europe, Jean-Marc Janaillac, chairman of Air France-KLM said in a statement. In addition, another deal between the European group and Delta Air Lines Inc. will help connect India to a trans-Atlantic network with hubs in Amsterdam and Paris, according to the statement.

Jet Airways passengers will be able to book a single ticket for a trip to the US and Europe, and fly Delta, Air France-KLM or Virgin Atlantic flights for different legs of the journey under the agreement.

The enhanced tie-up with Jet Airways, 24 per cent owned by Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways PJSC, brings the European carrier closer to a market where passenger traffic is growing at more than 20 per cent every year. Air France-KLM has significantly strengthened its links with other major carriers in recent months, with an agreement in July to buy 31 per cent of Britain's Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd while selling 10 per cent stakes to SkyTeam alliance partners Delta Air Lines Inc and China Eastern Airlines Corp.

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Jet Airways and state-owned Air India Ltd are among carriers whose fortunes have ebbed over the years after Gulf operators like Emirates Airline, Etihad and Qatar Airways Ltd started offering cheap fares to fly passengers to their hubs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, before transferring them to other flights. On local routes, no-frills carriers like market leader IndiGo, operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, and SpiceJet Ltd have captured market share with on-time services and cheap fares.

Jet Airways, which was the first local airline to get investment from a foreign carrier, posted its first annual profit in seven years in the 12 months ended March 2016, mainly because of a drop in oil prices. Etihad's other investments have done even worse.

Three of its former units - Italy's Alitalia SpA, Air Berlin Plc and Swiss regional carrier Darwin Airline SA - all collapsed in 2017.

The Indian carrier, which is not part of any airline alliance, is in talks with Air France-KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic for joint fuel purchases as well as to collaborate on engineering and maintenance, Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal told reporters in Mumbai.

Jet Airways will connect Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai to the networks of Air France and Delta in Europe, CEO Vinay Dube said.

Etihad will stay invested and the Indian company has no plan to sell more stakes to any other airline, Mr Goyal said.