Delta may start India flights shortly!

A few days ago, the score was settled between the United States and the Big 3 Middle East carriers, with the USA and UAE reaching an agreement on the Open Skies battle that lasted a long time. Qatar had already signed an agreement to this effect earlier this year.

There wasn’t much in it for the American carriers, who had made much ado about nothing. They’d always said their business suffered due to the ME3 carrying traffic between the USA and the other parts of the world. Funny enough, they never managed to convince anyone with that argument, and they never brought up the fact that they had an uncompetitive product altogether.

United has had an uncompetitive product operating in the Indian market for the longest time. It works because it is non-stop from Newark to Delhi/Mumbai. Similarly, Air India also has non-stops to Newark and New York JFK operating from Delhi/Mumbai.

American Airlines killed their Chicago Delhi flight in 2012 due to their reorganisation. Delta couldn’t make it work, so they withdrew from the market, first converting a non-stop between Mumbai and New York from their NorthWest Airlines times to a one-stop via Amsterdam, and then closing the flight in 2015 altogether. Jet Airways also killed their connections to the USA (first reducing from 2 flights to one flight by killing the JFK route, then killing the EWR flight next).

But now, Delta is seemingly walking back on that statement where they said India did not work for them. They laid the blame at the door of the ME3 always, anyways. In an interview to the WSJ, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said,

Delta Air Lines Inc. Chief Executive Ed Bastian said an agreement between the U.S. and two Persian Gulf states affords new protections to U.S. airlines that make it worth restarting service to foreign destinations that could include India.

CNBC reports, on the other hand, quoting Ed Bastian again.

“We’ve been hurt in India,” he said, although he did not specify which cities Delta is planning to add. He said routes currently served by those three Gulf carriers is “ripe for our opportunity to fly.”

So, while the airline uses the ME3 as their reason for being uncompetitive in the market, in reality, there are other reasons why they may now look at India as a market.

Delta to India

Firstly, they now have a partner in Jet Airways in India. Jet Airways even signed a metal-neutral pact with Delta’s transatlantic JV partners KLM/Air France to cooperate on flights between India and Europe by the 3 carriers. And 9W launched new flights to Paris and Amsterdam. KLM returned to Mumbai after so many years as well.

Secondly, they also have newer generation planes, such as the A350-900, which is now capable of flying the mission between Delhi/Mumbai and New York for instance, non-stop. And not to forget, the produce is better than what they flew to India in 2015.

While they have nowhere said this directly, there is chatter about the fact that Delta is considering a new flight to India. However, we still don’t know what city pair they’d intend to start on.


There are many reasons for Delta to look at India again and their friendship with Jet Airways, and the aircraft they have in their fleet are a couple of them. Competing with Emirates, Etihad or Qatar shouldn’t really be a worry. But those $400 fares with WOW Air entering the country later in the year… umm…

But perhaps that would make an easier justification to close the loop on their earlier argument. Anyhow, Delta should be back in India, and we just need to see when and where? And if people would

What do you think about Delta’s return to India? I’d rather have Jet Airways put a non-stop to the USA again…

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. It would be very difficult to believe that Delta has such plans, given that the UAE and Qatar deals with the US Government change absolutely nothing on the ground.

    Basically, from a Delta accounting perspective, US-India fares are too low, across all cabins, to justify nonstop flights, which take up almost 35 hours roundtrip.

    At present Delta does not even fly to Tokyo nonstop from New York.

    Delta is highly profitable precisely because they avoid money-losing routes.

  2. Delta over the years has turned into a formidable carrier with a strong product, expansive network and a competitive cost base at least compared to the European carriers.

    Product wise Delta will either fly 350s or refurbished 777s to India and will offer a leading product in all cabin classes- their suites will put them on TOP of all European and ME3 carriers save for Qsuites. In premium economy too their offering is quite strong particularly given their soft product differentiation and offering W passengers seating in first on onward domestic connections. In Y delta offers a spacious 18 inches in a 9 abreast configuration on its A350s and 777s- an increasing rarity.

    Delta also has a strong partnership network that offers multiple routings that no other carrier/alliance will be able to match. By launching its own services it will offer non-stop point to point options as well as European stop over options in key hubs- Paris, Amsterdam and London creating a very compelling proposition for business travellers.

    Delta’s new cabin configs are also optimised for Indian routes with a small business class and plenty of economy seating. All in all, I believe a non stop option from Delta will be a winner. I would assume they will launch services initially to JFK from Mumbai (Delhi is better served by SkyTeam members) plus has more non-stop options to North America from Air India.

    I would also think that they would be mulling services from their LAX hub after seeing the success of Air India’s nonstop SFO service thereby offering a trans-pacific option from India.

  3. DL has a higher cost structure and I’m doubtful whether they will be able to make India work again. Moreover the competition now in India US is much more than 2008 (last time DL flew to India non stop). The best route will be BOM JFK.
    However even I would have loved had 9W launched such a route.

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