It is not unusual for Indian carriers to open new routes and flights with very short lead times ahead of service launch. While some airlines can open reservations more than a year ahead of inauguration to maximise advanced bookings, Air India has confirmed it will launch a third daily rotation between Delhi and London from November 1, 2015 – yes, just two weeks from now!
The new link between its primary hub at Indira Gandhi International Airport and Heathrow Airport in the UK capital will be operated using a Boeing 777-200LR and will complement the carrier’s two existing daily rotations flown using a 777-300ER and a 787-8 Dreamliner. The new flight will depart Delhi at 02:15 (as compared to 06:50 and 14:45 for the current flights) and arrive in London at 06:30 providing connections options via Heathrow to both the European and Transatlantic networks of its Star Alliance partners.
Here are the details of the expanded flight schedule...
Delhi – London
AI161 DEL0215 – 0630LHR 77L D
AI115 DEL0650 – 1105LHR 788 D
AI111 DEL1445 – 1855LHR 77W D
London – Delhi
AI162 LHR0845 – 2235DEL 77L D
AI116 LHR1300 – 0250+1DEL 788 D
AI112 LHR2130 – 1120+1DEL 77W D
The new westbound flight is sure to prove popular with business passengers and will help maintain a healthy yield, but the eastbound return will likely to be used mainly by point-to-point travellers as it offers limited connection options on arrival back in Delhi.
Air India is one of four airlines to serve the Delhi – London market alongside British Airways, Jet Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways and which together will offer a total of seven daily flights from this winter – Air India three, British Airways two and Jet Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways with single daily rotations.
Its new rotation will be the first out of Delhi to London each morning, ahead of the current 03:40 Boeing 747-400 departure of British Airways, which arrives in the UK capital at 08:05 and connects to numerous flights onward from Heathrow. It will also be the first departure from London to Delhi at 08:45, versus the 11:20 departure of British Airways.
Demand data from Sabre shows an estimated demand of around 1,350 passengers a day between Delhi and London, but deeper analysis for the first six months of this year shows very different travel profiles for the carriers serving the route.
British Airways has the largest share of passengers over this period (34.8 per cent). This is pretty balanced between the two points of departure (London- 51.7 per cent; Delhi – 48.3 per cent), but heavily skewed to passengers connecting via its London Heathrow hub (63.9 per cent). Point-to-point demand equates to just over a third of total passengers (31.8 per cent) with connections via Delhi accounting for the smallest share of demand (1.6 per cent).
The Air India passenger dynamic is very different. It had a 31.0 per cent share of the total segment demand in the period from January 2105 to June 2015, with a stronger demand from Delhi (55.2 per cent) compared to London (44.8 per cent). While point-to-point demand levels were similar to those recorded by British Airways (32.1 per cent), the importance of connection options on both sides of the city pair is clear for the carrier with 38.2 per cent of passengers connecting via Delhi, 17.2 per cent via London and a significant 12.5 per cent via both points (bridge).
For the two remaining carriers, with just single daily rotations, point-to-point demand is lot more significant. Jet Airways had an 18.9 per cent share of segment demand during the first six months of the year with 44.4 per cent of its passengers flying between just Delhi and London. Its strong domestic network and international routes from Delhi help feed this route with just under half (48.7 per cent) of all passengers connecting via Indira Gandhi International Airport.
For Virgin Atlantic Airways, with a 15.3 per cent demand share, it is all about the city pair demand with point-to-point passengers accounting for more than two thirds (68.1 per cent) of its traffic. A further quarter of its passengers (26.3 per cent) are connecting via London Heathrow, the majority to its long-haul transatlantic flights to New York and Newark, albeit also with passengers connecting to its now closed domestic links to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester.