Ahmedabad and Newark have an exciting tale to tell. Back in the day, Air India used to operate a Boeing 777-300ER from Ahmedabad to Frankfurt, from where passengers could connect to Newark. The scissor hub did not work out very well, and nonstop USA flights were launched. Air India started to fly Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Newark using the same Boeing 77W. This worked very well for passengers, both domestic & international.
However, a couple of years ago, Air India axed the Ahmedabad – Mumbai flight and launched a one-stop flight between Newark and Ahmedabad via London. This flight was made possible with Air India’s old fifth-freedom rights on the Newark & London routes. This move achieved many things for AI:
- Air India managed to offer a non-stop flight to London from Ahmedabad
- Air India was able to add a flight between London and Newark.
- Air India managed to shift the Mumbai tag flight to launch from New Delhi, which is in line with their New Delhi widebody hub strategy.
Air India will drop the London – Newark route
Now, Air India is going to axe the fifth freedom flight between London and Newark, with effect from November 16, 2018. The route did not perform very well for Air India, in spite of being between two Star Alliance hubs. AI managed to get a 71% – 85% passenger load factor which isn’t great. Air India went on record to say that they were losing money on this route.
Ahmedabad-Newark is a big market for Air India. That would leave Ahmedabad originating passengers with just one option. Take a domestic flight to Mumbai and connect to Newark on the Mumbai – Newark flight. But given that the Mumbai – Ahmedabad operations now are on a narrowbody, feeding into a widebody, there is just not enough capacity.
Air India tickets on this route, which usually go for INR 3,000, have now shot up all the way to INR 10,000 some days. On other days, the connectors are sold out. These prices are a short 60-minute hop to Mumbai from Ahmedabad. The trend continues through February 2018. This is due to the rebooking of passengers from AI 171 going to Newark.
[Ed’s Take: Also say bye to all the wonderful award space this flight had opened up to Newark]
Air India Bangalore to London Heathrow flights to be launched
Right about the same time, Air India is going to launch the Bengaluru to London Heathrow flights, operated by a Boeing 787-8 from November 17, 2018. The flight will operate three times weekly with the following schedule:
AI177 BLR0525–1105LHR 246
AI178 LHR1300–0400(+1) BLR 135
Economy fares on this route start at INR 44,000 roundtrip. Business class fares start at INR 1.3 lakh roundtrip. With this flight, Air India will use up remaining available bilateral rights between India and London Heathrow for Indian carriers, putting sand on the plans of Jet Airways to add more frequencies to London. Air India had cornered the rights a long time ago but was not using them. Do check out our review of Air India’s Boeing 787 Business Class to London.
Air India is up against some fierce competition. British Airways has a daily Boeing 777 flight to Bengaluru. Apart from the UK market, BA also offers connections to their substantial trans-Atlantic network destinations. Air India, on the other hand, will be contributing nothing apart from a 3x weekly flight to London. This is due to non-co-operation with its alliance partner, United Airlines. Maintaining a connection to Newark from London through a codeshare, more connections opportunities for passengers and all the other things can be solved by trying to make a JV with United Airlines and Air Canada.
Of course, Air India being themselves, have still not started to market the route. The route was bookable as of October 4, 2018, and there is no formal announcement from the airline at the moment.
Good to see Air India taking a step to cut down on loss-making routes. Bengaluru will have one more connection to London with the Indian airline as compared to just the British Airline. With this, they also outsmarted Jet Airways capacity addition to London, given 9W can’t get enough of London for their passengers and almost all their 77Ws are flying full to London these days.
Have you flown the Ahmedabad – London – Newark flight? Would you miss it?