India’s national carrier Air India is poised for a significant network growth once the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is permitted to return to the air. The carrier’s operations have, like all existing customers of the Dreamliner, been significantly disrupted over the past couple of months following the grounding of the type earlier this year, but its senior management is confident it will be weeks rather than months before the jet can return to passenger service.
Air India is currently the only operator of the 787 in the Indian sub-continent. It took delivery of its first aircraft in September 2012 and now has six aircraft, with 21 more on order. Speaking during a panel discussion at this year’s Routes Asia conference in Mumbai, Deepak Brara, Commercial Director, Air India confirmed that the carrier was confident that following Boeing’s recent fix to the battery issues that have grounded the type since January, it would resume scheduled passenger flights with the 787 from next month.
“We are looking to add new flights to a number of new markets in the coming years. These include destinations in Australia, Italy, the US and a second stop in the UK.”Deepak Brara
Commercial Director, Air India
The return to flying operation and the arrival of additional aircraft will enable the Indian flag carrier to look to new markets, explained Brara, as well as operating to existing points in the network on a more efficient basis. “We are looking to add new flights to a number of new markets in the coming years. These include destinations in Australia, Italy, the US and a second stop in the UK,” he revealed.
The airline’s growth will be based on Origin and Destination markets and it will continue to develop New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport as it primary international hub, with secondary regional hubs across the country. According to Brara, India has not been successful developing the hub model due to the lack of strong operators in the country. “We need much stronger carriers in India,” he said.
“We have a huge home market so we have the scope to develop without having to worry about serving transfer traffic. As a result we will not really focus on sixth freedom markets in the coming years but simply serving strong O&D markets,” he added.