Air India has set 28 June as the new start date of a daily Delhi-Melbourne service, which will be the only direct flight between the two countries, after a much on-and-off again experience with the route owning to a wavering Indian government.
The carrier tells Flightglobal’s Air Transport Intelligence that it is now evaluating a service to Sydney. “Air India is planning to add more international destinations to its operations. In Australia, the other destination being looked at is Sydney,” a company spokesman says.
The carrier had planned to start the Melbourne route last October but then canceled it. This February it received traffic rights.
Although the carrier has not specified its exact schedule or what equipment it will be using, it is understood Air India will be operating the 777-300ER to Melbourne airport, who says it is the right Australian city for Air India to serve.
“Over the last three years, there has been an average annual growthrate of 14% in visitors from India to Victoria, and Air India, by choosingMelbourne as their base, have seized this marketopportunity,” Melbourne airport chief executive Chris Woodruff says.
“Over the last decade, the Melbourne Indian community is also the fastest growing Indian community in Australia. This means significant travel by family and friends, demonstrated by 25 percent growth in 2010 from this segment of the Melbourne-India market.”
Last month Air India petitioned is government to block other Indian carriers, such as Jet Airways and Kingfihser, to serve Melbourne so that the country’s flag carrier could “settle down on the route”, as one paper described. It is not known if India’s aviation ministry approved the request.
Qantas operates a one-stop service to Mumbai via Singapore. It previously operated a direct flight to Mumbai but canceled it in 2008. Virgin Blue has said it intends to forge links with India as part of its forthcoming Asian network comprising direct flights and partnerships.
Here are some interior photos of Air India’s 3-class 777-300ER taken by AirSpace user apgphoto.