The cash-strapped AI that was recently granted approval to operate direct flights from Delhi has requested aviation ministry not to allow other carriers on that particular route till it stabilises its operations.
Both AI and aviation ministry officials confirmed the request. “Whether the ministry has accepted it or not is yet to come,” an AI official said on the condition of anonymity.
This has left private airlines miffed as they find that India-Australia route pretty lucrative to start direct flights. “Major traffic on India-Melbourne route is mainly students. To start flights on this route is certainly value for money. There is a huge potential both in terms of direct flights from India to Australia as well as connecting flights,” said a private airline’s executive, who did not want to be named.
At present, Singapore Airlines and Qantas are the major competition on India-Australia routes. Though both Jet Airways and Kingfisher have not yet sent an official proposal to aviation ministry seeking permission for Melbourne, the carriers find it as one of the good options for future network expansion.
“We are constantly evaluating new routes. The traffic has been growing on this route. However, we have not decided as to when we would start flights on this route,” said an airline official. This may not be the first time when AI has put in such request before the ministry. According to industry officials, a similar letter was sent even at the time of Delhi-London flights.
Late last month, aviation ministry had approved AI’s plans to start seven direct flights per week on Delhi-Melbourne sector. The approval had come after six months delay. Earlier, the carrier was planning to start operating Delhi-Melbourne flights from winter schedule in last October. Melbourne would be AI’s 34th international destination. The carrier is looking at adding more international routes to its network. On Thursday, it announced to introduce new flight from Chennai to Paris beginning next Sunday.