Air India, the most prominent International Carrier from India, has been planning to get even more significant, never mind their massive debt. Delhi to San Francisco Air India flights was 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. The sector was a massive hit for them.
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. Due to the prolonged closure of Pakistan airspace and weak demand, Air India pulled out of Mumbai – New York JFK just months after starting it.
Much of the expansion and increased utilisation of aircraft came during Ashwani Lohan’s stint as Air India’s CEO from September 2015 to August 2017. Ashwani Lohani is back as Air India’s CEO since February 2019, and since then we are seeing some exciting developments going on. One of the routes which Air India wanted to start was Delhi – Los Angeles. Ashwani Lohani hinted at starting the route in his previous tenure as well as in current mandate. But we haven’t heard anything more on that as of now.
Another flight that Air India is looking to add is a second frequency on the Delhi – New York route from October 2019. According to Ashwani Lohani as quoted by Business Standard,
Our US routes are doing well and we are considering a second service between Delhi-New York from October.
Air India’s Canada operations were on an on-off basis. Back in the day, they used to operate a 747-200 on Toronto-Montreal-London-Delhi route but stopped flying to Canada after the bombing of AI 182 on June 23, 1985. After two decades, Air India restarted Canada operations in 2005 via London. Later on, Air India operated flights to Toronto from both Delhi and Amritsar via London.
Air India’s Amritsar-London-Toronto flights recorded one of the highest occupancies. In 2010, Air India started daily non-stop Delhi-Toronto flights instead of 4x weekly Amritsar-London-Toronto and 3x weekly Delhi-London-Toronto flights. But due to an increase in fuel prices and probably other factors, this was one of the highest loss-making sectors for Air India. So they pulled out of Canada a year or so later.
On June 14, 2019, the new Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri announced that Air India would restart flights to Toronto. Air India will operate 3x weekly 777-300ER flights on Amritsar-Delhi-Toronto route from September 27, 2019. The schedule for the flight isn’t out yet.
Nanak Naam Chardhi Kala,
Tere Bhaane Sarbat Da Bhala.
Delighted to announce the commencement of a thrice weekly @airindiain flight between Sri Amritsar Sahib and Canada.
The Amritsar-Delhi-Toronto flight will commence on the occasion of World Tourism Day on 27 Sept. 2019. pic.twitter.com/xSqzxpQVQr
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) June 14, 2019
Air India operates 13 777-300ER and three 777-200LR for commercial services. Air India had put two 777-300ER in storage for 8-10 months, VT-ALU (September 22, 2018-June 6, 2019) and VT-ALO (August 9, 2018-) due to lack of spare parts and even cancelled 3x weekly BOM-JFK route. So they do have 777-300ER to operates the new route.
Air India is filling a gap in its network. Jet Airways used to operate Delhi-Amsterdam-Toronto flights before it suspended operations. Air India’s fellow Star Alliance member, Air Canada which briefly halted flights on Delhi-Toronto sector, restarted flights in 2015 and later on increased it to daily with a 787-9. But due to the prolonged closure of Pakistan airspace, it has suspended the route till September 1, 2019. However, Air Canada is still operating non-stop Vancouver-Delhi flight with a 787-9 using the Pacific route on the inbound sector. Air Canada also operates flights on Mumbai-Toronto route seasonally.
Air India, however, hasn’t themselves announced or publicised the route yet nor it has opened up bookings for it yet. Bookings are expected to open up shortly.