A nonstop link between India, one of the world’s fastest growing markets, and Australia will be resumed on August 29 when Air India reintroduces direct services after a 16-year absence in the market. The airline will operate a daily schedule using its newly-delivered 787s, likely becoming the first carrier to introduce the new aircraft to Australia.
A triangulated route will operate four days a week Delhi-Sydney-Melbourne, with the remaining three days operating Delhi-Melbourne-Sydney.
The airline’s announcement, which was made at the recent annual Routes Asia conference, turns around the lack of direct flights after Qantas abandoned the route in May 2012.
“We have a huge home market so we can develop without having to worry about serving transfer traffic. As a result, we will not really focus on sixth freedom markets but simply serving strong O&D [origin and destination] markets,” Air India’s commercial director Deepak Brara said as the airline announced a raft of new services that includes Milan, Washington DC and Birmingham in the UK.
“On that basis all four route choices have been selected based on strong demographic criteria with Indian diaspora being the key element,” Brara added, noting the strong demographic in Australia helped push Sydney and Melbourne to the top of the airline’s expansion plans.
Since Air India stopped flying direct to Australia in 1997 in the face of rising corporate losses, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Singapore Airlines have carried the majority of India-Australia traffic, supported by other Asian airlines offering indirect services. Singapore Airlines in particular will be hurt by the new direct service. It currently carries some 42 per cent of traffic between Australia and India.
Nearly 200,000 passengers a year travel between Delhi, Mumbai and Sydney alone.
The Centre for Aviation said in an analysis of the market: “India-Australia is a largely untapped market with significant potential, given both the volume of trade, tourism and VFR traffic between the two nations, yet it remains without direct air service.”
CAPA said few aircraft types of the appropriate size were capable of nonstop service in both directions between Australia and India. Air India had intended to recommence Australian services in 2010, but prolonged delays in the delivery of its 787s meant shelving any route expansion until the aircraft became available.