Air India, the most prominent International Carrier from India, has been planning to get even bigger, never mind their massive debt. Delhi San Francisco Air India flights were launched three times a week in December 2015 and then doubled in frequency to 6 times a week in November 2016 and further increased to 9 times a week.
Air India started a fifth freedom flight between London and Newark, by launching an Ahmedabad – London – Newark flight. They began flights to Madrid as well in December 2016 and took over the Delhi – Vienna flights from Austrian. They then killed the London – Newark segment and added Bangalore – London in its place.
Air India flight to Washington DC from Delhi went live on 7 July 2017 as well and is operating three times a week as of now. Next, in line, the launches to Stockholm & Copenhagen, have also completed and they are operating normally there.
With the induction of 787s completed, Air India is still, however, trying to put them to good use. They added more flights to Sydney and are trying to explore more flights to Melbourne as well. Israel got 3X a week flights too, being the first ones to be able to overfly Saudi Arabian airspace to access Israel. Air India then launched 4x weekly flights on Mumbai – Frankfurt route in October 2018.
Air India for quite some time had intentions of adding flights from Mumbai to New York JFK. They followed it up by launching 3x weekly flights on Mumbai – New York JFK in December 2018 using a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
Much of the expansion and increased utilisation of aircraft came during Ashwani Lohani’s stint as Air India’s CEO from September 2015 to August 2017. Ashwani Lohani is back as Air India’s CEO just last month and since then we are seeing some interesting developments going on.
Air India plans to service all 26 grounded aircraft with 23 of them requiring new engines and increase the aircraft utilisation. According to Times of India, Air India is seriously considering adding flights to Los Angeles this winter. This route would be Air India’s longest route yet at 8013 miles.
Ashwani Lohani first hinted at adding flights to Los Angeles from September 2017, then there were reports of a November 2017 launch and it was put on the back burner in October 2017. With Ashwani Lohani back at Air India, it looks like a huge possibility.
So does Air India have spare aircraft?
Yes. Air India has 2 Boeing 777-300ER which have been inoperational for six months. Air India wants to bring back those aircraft back in regular service so that they can launch Delhi – Los Angeles. Air India has enough aircraft to launch at least 3x weekly Boeing 777-300ER flights to Los Angeles.
They wish to have the first mover advantage on this route as if any US carrier was even considering that route anyway. American Airlines is thinking of adding a route to Delhi from Philadelphia. Delta has announced a flight to Mumbai but hasn’t followed up with a route announcement yet. United will increase its presence by launching a daily San Francisco-Delhi flight from December 5, 2019.
This would also affect Middle-East carriers especially Etihad which has already reduced frequency on Abu Dhabi – Los Angeles route to 3x-4x weekly. Etihad pulled out of San Francisco citing Air India’s rapid expansion in the market.
Delhi – Los Angeles is a very large unserved nonstop route and has been on Air India’s radar for a long time. Looks like this time Air India may eventually launch Delhi – Los Angeles route, just like they launched Mumbai – New York JFK, especially with Ashwani Lohani back at Air India. We will have to wait for a few more months as Air India usually announces a new route just a month or two before launching flights.
What do you think? Will Air India launch flights to Los Angeles within 2019?