The capacity on London – India flights does not seem to be ever enough. Earlier, British Airways has been at the positive receiving end since Jet Airways first withdrew flights to the UK, and then perished quickly after that. Given that the entire episode happened very close to the ICC Cricket World Cup, which was being held in the UK in 2019, British Airways managed to launch a third flight to Mumbai at short notice in June 2019. Virgin Atlantic started a daily flight to Mumbai from London Heathrow as soon as this third BA flight shut down.
While 56 flights per week are permitted between London Heathrow and Delhi/Mumbai for British Carriers as well as Indian carriers, British Airways third daily flight launching on March 29, 2020, to Mumbai would have made sure 49/56 frequencies would have been used up. With only one daily flight left, Virgin Atlantic has announced a second flight between Delhi and London Heathrow effective March 29, 2020 (start of the summer schedule). The new flight will be operated by a Boeing 787-9.
From the Indian side, only Air India is operating three daily flights to London Heathrow from Mumbai/Delhi at the moment, making it 21 frequencies. Here are the flights.
- Delhi – London Heathrow – Delhi (Daily): AI 111/ AI 112
- Delhi – London Heathrow – Delhi (Daily): AI 161/ AI 162
- Mumbai – London Heathrow – Mumbai (Daily): AI 131/ AI 130
Air India has up gauged the Mumbai and Delhi flights to London Heathrow to 777s, to add capacity, because the bilateral limit is on the number of flights, and not on the type of aircraft flown. So if they hypothetically had an A380, it would still be counted as one flight.
With another 35 weekly flights between Delhi/Mumbai and London Heathrow possible, and not enough capacity going around between Mumbai and London, Air India is now putting its might behind launching six more weekly flights between Mumbai and London but with a rider. They will divide up flights between London Stansted and London Heathrow.
For Mumbai – London Stansted, the following is the schedule for Air India’s flights, to be launched February 20, 2020, and currently available for sale through March 28, 2020.
AI133 BOM0955 – 1400STN 788 146
AI132 STN1530 – 0550(+1)BOM 788 146
For Mumbai – London Heathrow, an additional three flights will be put up, making a total of 10 frequencies for Air India on the Mumbai – London Heathrow route. The additional flights are going to operate from February 14, 2020, onwards through March 13, 2020, as per the Air India website.
AI129 BOM1030 – 1505LHR 788 25
AI129 BOM1030 – 1500LHR 788 3
AI128 LHR1625 – 0650(+1)BOM 788 35
AI128 LHR1630 – 0650(+1)BOM 788 2
In all probability, Air India will be utilising one aircraft rotation to fulfil these six weekly services between Mumbai and London at various airports. This still leaves a lot of room for other airlines to add services from Delhi and Mumbai to London Heathrow. All eyes are on Vistara though, which is due to pick up their first Boeing 787-9 aircraft sometime in February 2020 – March 2020. Vistara has not hidden its intention to fly to London/Tokyo as its first destination.
What do you make of this temporary addition of new capacity to London by Air India?
(Additional inputs by Karan Patel)