Air India plans to launch 787 service on Delhi – Melbourne late 2012

The gloves are off and Air India finally seems to be getting into network planning mode. Maybe they now see a realistic chance of getting some Boeing 787 planes, while the controversy about who will fund this purchase goes on, and whether Boeing owes Air India a compensation of USD 1 billion.

So, an Australian delegation hit up India earlier this week for trade talks, and at the end of this trip, the famed Delhi – Melbourne dreams of Air India were revived. Air India has been planning to launch this money-sucker route since 2010, and has postponed the launch dates two times already from 2010 to 2011 and now into 2012. The initial plans were supposed to make it a B777-300 ER service, and quoted to be unviable.

Now, Air India plans to launch a direct Delhi [DEL] – Melbourne [MEL] service riding on its new B787s, which AI finally expects to receive in May 2012 and induct in its fleet shortly after. Since these are just plans, it might well turn out to be a different route later, but this is the route that is being toyed around with right now. 6,300 miles apart, Air India clearly hasn’t picked up the experiences of other carriers operating ultra-long hauls and burning their fingers. Or this is clearly another experiment to waste some of my money (as a taxpayer!).

The media quotes that an estimated 335,000 passengers move between India and Australia every year, and this traffic is largely shared between Sydney and Melbourne. Rumor is that AI has extracted significant concessions from the Australian government to operate these flights, which makes their bean counters sure that this route will be cash positive in the first year itself. Other rosy dreams for Air India include the possibility to garner traffic onward to the Middle – East and London via Delhi.

The configuration of the new 787s puts me to doubt on this, since the first 7 B787 planes to be delivered to Air India will have a 16 Business / 256 Economy configuration. No First Class. Not that I am a first class traveller (business/economy for me!), but a significant number of the business jetsetters take the premium cabins. And add the fact that these business travellers would be the people who’ll be taking the onward flights most probably. So, one revenue generating market killed easily. Now, AI will bank on the VFR segment to fill the 256 seats, like it does on DEL-ORD-DEL and depress pricing.

What also beckons explanation is, that if India – Australia traffic is profitable indeed, what made Qantas shut down their Mumbai – Sydney direct in 2010, where it was losing about $20 million per annum? The Mumbai – Singapore segment of its one-stop flight to Brisbane also is being wound up on 6th May 2012. American Airlines recently cut down its longest flight ORD-DEL-ORD and this stops on the 1st March 2012. Ultra-long hauls are a tradeoff between fuel and cargo where fuel wins (obviously!), and the whole plan sounds like another losing proposition to me.

My vote is not for this one! What do you think?


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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. […] for staff and ground agents, so it looks like it will happen after a lot of talk over the years! Air India plans to launch 787 service on Delhi – Melbourne late 2012 – Live From A Lounge Air India to deploy 787 to Melbourne from October – Wings Down Under […]


  1. If indeed DEL – MEL route would fly, I’ll be the first one to jump on the plane. Although I am not a big Air india fan, but the lure of a direct flight to Delhi without having to waste 4-5 hours in places like Singapore. Bangkok etc would be good lure. Also, depending upon how the onward flights are timed, Air India can be a big player on the traqditional Kangaroo route i.e MEL/SYD – London with one stop in between (depending on what airline you fly) The number of young and old Australians flying to Mother country (UK) is huge and how Air india markets the optiona and if iot can structure stop over deals (like Thai or Malaysian do) will be big lure for backpackers flying either way.
    Qantas failed because it was trying to servuice corporate India in Mumbai, but a large traffic of customers fly into Delhi from Melbourne (Immigrants Punjabis, students and executives for BPO centres in gurgaon. It will come down to how good Air india is at using the advantage that it has of being the first airline to fly a B787 out of Australia.

  2. If the route does start (I read an article in The Australian today saying Sydney is fighting for the route), I will most certainly use it. Qantas would have been a joke, especially with the stopover.

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