Air India has once again announced its intention to relaunch flights to Australia and this time aviation officials are confident that flights will be successfully resurrected. The carrier plans to introduce a daily connection between New Delhi and the cities of Melbourne and Sydney from next month and is currently finalizing plans ahead of the launch.
The Indian carrier has regularly communicated its plans to introduce new flights to Melbourne and Sydney but has never got the services off the ground, despite revealing tentative schedules. Like the carrier’s other recently unveiled new long-haul route to Birmingham, UK, details of the return to the Australian market were revealed by one of the carrier’ senior executives at Routes Asia earlier this year.
Following the arrival of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners the carrier has been analysing a number of markets for network growth over the past year and now the aircraft has returned to service following its grounding earlier this year, the carrier is now prepared to push ahead with its expansion and the Australian cities will be two of four or five new long-haul destinations to be introduced by the end of 2014.
Air India plans to operate the routes on a daily triangle basis from August 29, 2013 from its New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport hub using one of its expanding fleet of 787s - four times weekly it will fly direct to Sydney and then on to Melbourne before returning to India and will route in the opposite direction on the other three days. The carrier is currently the only operator of the 787 in the Indian sub-continent having taken delivery of its first aircraft in September 2012. It now has six aircraft in service, with 21 more on order.
It was at Routes Asia earlier this year that it became clear that Air India was on the expansion path. Speaking at the event in Mumbai, India in March 2013, Deepak Brara, Commercial Director, Air India confirmed that the carrier was confident that upon the type’s return to service it would be in a position to announce new markets. “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.
“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.
Air India will be the first airline in the world to operate its 787 into Australia and officials at Sydney Airport are delighted to have secured the new direct route to New Delhi, the facility’s largest unserved market. In 2012, around 40 per cent of all travellers between Australia and India flew through Sydney, a total of over 280,000 passengers, a growth rate of 11 per cent versus the previous year.
“Delhi is Sydney’s largest unserved market. Now that the market will be served directly we expect growth to accelerate, providing a major boost to NSW tourism and support to the growing trade links between Australia and India,” said Kerrie Mather, Chief Executive Officer, Sydney Airport. “Sydney is home to 217,000 people of Indian descent, emphasising the cultural links between these two growing markets.”
The new scheduled link will end Air India’s 16-year hiatus in the Australian market, a country it last served in June 1997 when it terminated its flights to Perth. You have to go back even further to January 1991 when it last served Sydney, via Singapore, while Melbourne was last part of the Air India network way back in April 1981.