Air India, in 2013, launched the Amritsar-Delhi-Birmingham route on the Boeing 787 aeroplanes, one of the first routes with the then new plane type for them. While initially launching 4 flights a week, at some point in time, the route was made a daily route. Clearly, Air India was not fully convinced about the potential of the Amritsar Birmingham route and hence backtracked the flight via Delhi to ensure loads were reasonable.
However, yesterday, Air India and Birmingham Airport have announced the launch of a non-stop flight between Birmingham and Amritsar next year sometime. The exact date is yet to be confirmed, however, Air India expects it to be early 2018. Air India will operate the flight twice a week. Once it launches, the route will be the only non-stop service from the UK to Amritsar. (Update: The date of the launch of the direct flight will be February 20, 2018)
Air India has carried almost 500,000 passengers on its Birmingham-Delhi route since it was launched in August 2013, which does not indicate bad loads at all at about 60% occupancy or more.
This route will be again operated by a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner with 18 business class seats and 238 economy class seats.
I’m just hoping 9 services a week between these city pairs are not a bit much, and also the new flight does not affect the existing daily flights.
What do you think about the launch of the new flights between Amritsar and Birmingham?
I am writing on behalf of Amritsar Vikas Manch, a non-government non-profit organization from Amritsar that has been lobbying for the flights from Amritsar Airport for almost 2 decades. We have filed a Public Interest Litigation in Punjab & Haryana High Court regarding re-routing of Air India flights via Delhi under its hub & spoke policy. As you mentioned Air India started with 4 days a week in 2013. Actually they started this flight in May 2005 as ATQ-BHX-YYZ as 3 days a week, later changed to 7 days a week and in November 2008 changed it to ATQ-LHR-YYZ to save a slot at Heathrow. In November 2009, they re-routed LHR and YYZ flights as ATQ-DEL-LHR and ATQ–DEL-YYZ. Before the re-routing these flights were the most successful in Air India history but the new hub & spoke policy not only added inconvenience but also loss to Amritsar Airport.
Since January 2017, we are fighting a legal battle with detailed data and traffic statistics in High Court. Since Air India runs on tax payers money, we had to take this legal course. Currently, on this flight about 40-45% passengers start or end the journey at Amritsar, add the same number from Patiala, Ludhiana and other areas in Punjab that travel by road to Delhi as it is not convenient for them to first drive to Amritsar to fly to Delhi and then wait at Delhi to fly to Birmingham. These passengers prefer Amritsar but due to this Delhi re-route, they board from Delhi. Even High Court Judge asked Air India who had no explanation on why this flight cannot start as 3-4 days a week and rest of the days can fly via Delhi to prove our claim.
Our understanding is that Air India will keep it as 5 days a week and instead of operating it as ATQ-DEL-BHX-DEL-ATQ flight and other days it will operate it as ATQ-BHX.
You guys should get a real job rather than protesting for lack of flight connectivity. I really dont understand how can you compare delhi to amritsar. If Amritsar was in fact as you say the most profitable destination, Air Canada would be running Toronto – Amritsar flights rather than Toronto – Delhi or Bombay. Or for that matter even British Airways/Lufthansa/United etc etc would be flying to ATQ. Your lobbying would only work with Air India rather than commercially run enterprises and then you yourself are complaining that AI is run on tax payer money.
Thanks for your message. Please check Air India financial reports about the top loss making flights for Air India for the past 10 years. If you wish, I can send you details for 2015. Air India suffered losses on most of its routes every year but Amritsar flight was not on top of the list. It is the flights from Bombay and Delhi. We are not lobbying for operating loss making routes but if all the routes are in loss, then the cancellation or re-routing should be done on merit basis. I can send you the link for Air India Ahmedabad-Bombay-Newark flight that could not even earn a revenue that matches with the fuel expense, this was published on Bangalore Aviation. Why was this route not stopped. Air India is still operating BOM-EWR flight and in August 2016 started AMD-LHR-EWR as well but to re-route ATQ-DEL-BHX as DEL-ATQ-BHX that needs no new planes, they kept on saying that DEL is our hub. Data shows that currently 40% passengers are boarding or ending at ATQ plus 35% from Ludhiana and other places that travel by road. So currently they are getting almost 80% load from Punjab. An average of about 30 passengers are travelling on Qatar to BHX every day plus hundreds traveling on Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Many of these passengers from Qatar can shift on Air India ATQ-BHX flight which will open up Qatar flights for other routes as seats are hard to get on it from Amritsar. I also want to highlight that for many top European carriers, business class occupancy and Cargo is very important. It is always highlighted that business class may not be enough from the Punjab region.
Before Delhi and Mumbai were made the hub, Air India successfully operated ATQ-BHX-YYZ flight and then later ATQ-LHR-YYZ flight till 2010. Due to Delhi hub policy, flight was re-routed as ATQ-DEL-YYZ and ATQ-DEL-LHR. Air India suffered losses on YYZ route as passengers decline especially Punjabis who preferred to fly from Amritsar. Eventually flight was cancelled after the Pilot strike. If given the choice from Delhi, Punjabis can fly on other airlines, if they fly direct from Amritsar, they will prefer Air India. This is what happened. Even in 2012, ATQ-DEL-YYZ was not the top loss making route for Air India, it was other flights but they stopped this flight.
You mentioned about other big carriers not flying like that of Air Canada, British Airways; it will happen as well. UK (London, Birmingham), Canada (Toronto, Vancouver) and USA (California) has one of the largest people of Punjabi origin which is about 2 million. Airlines are also recognizing high transit traffic generated by this region. If these carriers do not start, some other new low cost carriers are also already eyeing ATQ. People will soon be able to save time and money by conveniently flying directly out of Amritsar.