Updated: Jul 18, 2019
Air India has been struggling. While the industry in India continues to strive, premium airlines such as Air India and Jet Airways have been hit hard by low cost carriers. The latter also declared bankruptcy. However, things are beginning to look better for Air India: In recent days, expansion plans and updates on the carrier’s situation have been released, all of which look extremely positive.
One of the more notable revelations was that Air India will finally be resuming service with 17 of its aircraft. Initially, all the 17 planes (comprising both narrow-body and wide-body planes) were grounded as a result of a lack of maintenance. The carrier struggled to keep growing, as capacity continued to decrease. However, according to the Hindustan Times, Air India will be resuming service with all of the 17 planes by October. The report states that wide-body aircraft maintenance will be completed by June and narrow-body aircraft by September. The grounded aircraft include 2 Boeing 777s, 3 of the carrier’s flagship Boeing 787s and 12 Airbus A320s. An airline official said, “34 engines of the 17 aircraft are aimed to be fitted latest by September. Each Airbus engine requires ₹35 lakh to be repaired. After this, we have plans to commence additional domestic as well as international flights”. Air India originally grounded 19 aircraft at the start of the year, but has managed to return 2 of them to service.
North American Expansion
Air India is expected to launch flights to Los Angeles later this year as well as Toronto. During the fourth quarter of this year, Air India may likely be launching the flights as it builds on the success of its route to San Francisco. Air India chairman, Ashwani Lohani told the Times Of India that ‘Los Angeles from this winter will be seriously looked at.’
The Delhi to Los Angeles sector is one of the largest unserved markets internationally from India. While capacity on the San Francisco route continues to increase, with flights being offered by Air India and soon United seasonally this winter.
The re-deployment of a lot of its aircraft allows Air India to begin flights to Los Angeles before its competitors, giving it a key advantage.
As for Toronto, this will become Air India’s first route to Canada. The carrier has stayed out of the sector as partner Air Canada already operates almost all of the most lucrative routes, including Toronto to Mumbai and Delhi and Vancouver to Delhi – the obvious choices for new routes. However, Jet Airways also used to operate on the Toronto sector (via Amsterdam) prior to its bankruptcy. For this reason, there was obviously a decrease in capacity – motivating Air India to fill the gap while expanding its network.
In other news, Air India will also be expanding elsewhere, namely Dubai. Both its flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Dubai will see capacity increase by 3500 seats each.
Additionally Air India is also planning to increase capacity on its domestic network. New routes such as Bhopal to Pune and Varanasi to Chennai will launch on June 5, while frequencies are set to rise on the Delhi-Raipur, Delhi-Bangalore, Delhi-Amritsar, Chennai-Ahmedabad Chennai-Kolkata, Delhi-Vadodara and Mumbai-Vizag sectors.
Delhi To Mumbai – Connecting Competitively
A capacity gap was left on the Mumbai to Delhi route after Jet Airways ceased operations. For this reason, Air India will be using the ‘Queen Of The Skies’ on one of the busiest domestic services in India (as it often does). The aircraft will fly on the Delhi to Mumbai and Delhi to Kolkata routes for a month. The carrier cites a surge in demand for the latest move, effective June 1.
One interesting question remains – Why didn’t Air India fill the capacity gap on the London to Mumbai route?
As one of the most popular routes that Air India offers, the airline was speculated to have been preparing to up frequencies. However, it is also one of the most competitive international routes it flies on as well.
Following Jet Airways’ bankruptcy, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic both immediately announced service expansion plans, and have already added enough capacity to cater for the demand. Air India did not, unfortunately, react.
As mentioned, Air India has been facing a major lack of capacity, limiting its growth and competitive advantages. This limit extended internationally, with no aircraft being available to add new flights on what could’ve been a very profitable opportunity.
Regroup, Restructure, Recover
While Air India has had a tough time, things are looking up for the airline. What once was the pride of India, had been demoted to one of the most complained about airline in India, with a broken, run-down fleet and terrible service. However, the airline listened, improved and is now climbing the steps to once again, becoming a major player in Asia. Only time will tell, but if done right, Air India could be on its way to true success.