Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Why London To Amritsar Could Be Lucrative For Indian Airlines

Air India recently started operating a once-weekly service between London Heathrow and Amritsar under the Vande Bharat Mission. The overwhelming demand for passengers between the two cities, before and during the pandemic, has led to many calling for a regularly scheduled route too. Here’s why London to Amritsar could be lucrative for Indian airlines.

The main reason why London to Amritsar can be lucrative is due to the high traffic on the route. Estimates in 2019 said that nearly 200,000 people fly between the two cities, making it a prime candidate for a direct route. The presence of a large Punjabi community in the UK and strong business ties ensure both leisure and business traffic on the route.

Currently, the only direct route between the two cities is a thrice-weekly Air India service to London Stansted. The route started late last year using the airline’s 256-seat 787-8 Dreamliner. While this was a good start, there remain a few things lacking with this flight.

As mentioned, there are nearly 200,000 passengers between Amritsar and London every year. However, the thrice-weekly Air India flight can only service a maximum of 40,000 passengers every year, only 20% of the capacity. Air India would have to up its flights to daily services and switch to a 777-300ER if it hopes to capture over 50% of the traffic.

Another drawback on the Air India route has been that it flies to Stansted and not the better-connected Heathrow. Many advocates for a switch of airport, in a statement to the Times of India, say that the Punjabi business community is located much closer to Heathrow. Switching to the airport will attract more business travelers and offer easier connections to everyone.
Earlier this year, Air India leased six slot pairs from Garuda Indonesia to expand operations at Heathrow. While these slots were planned to be used for flights to Mumbai, the success of Vande Bharat flights to Amritsar might push Air India to use some of the slots for the city.

Alternatively, Air India could simply increase its frequency on the Stansted route. A daily flight would help it capture more market share and offer passengers more flexibility on travel dates. Currently, the only other options to London are with Qatar or Emirates (through flydubai).
Another possible candidate could be Vistara. The airline currently offers a one-stop connection to London via Delhi. As it inducts more 787s, perhaps the airline could look to new non-stop flights to the UK.
25/08/20 Pranjal Pande/Simple Flying
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