Air India to Boost Birmingham Route to Daily Schedule
Air India has committed to increase its Birmingham – Delhi - Amritsar operation from four flights per week to daily services from November this year, when the arrival of additional Boeing 787 Dreamliners will provide it with the capacity to support the frequency growth. The proposed growth was revealed by the airline’s Commercial Director, Pankaj Srivastava as it hosted a celebratory dinner earlier this month to mark the first anniversary of the resumed air link.
“Air India is committed to develop and grow in this market and once we have taken the delivery of our 18th Dreamliner aircraft in November, we hope to launch the daily operation from Birmingham Airport,” he said.
“This will provide an extra 1,500 seats a week and give passengers greater choice, flexibility and opportunity to travel from the convenience of Birmingham Airport to Amritsar and Delhi, and onwards on Air India’s extensive global network,” he added.
Since launching the route on a four times weekly schedule on August 1, 2013, the carrier has handled more than eighty thousand passengers onboard 210 return flights, providing better connectivity between the Midlands and India for business passengers, tourists and people visiting friends and relatives.
According to census information, approximately 65,000 people of Indian origin live within Birmingham and its immediate suburbs. When you also include the notable levels of Indians across the Midlands and most notably in the cities of Coventry and Leicester you can understand why Birmingham appeals to the Indian carrier. The census data suggests an Indian population of around 185,000 across the West Midlands County and 218,000 across the wider West Midlands region. These figures show that outside of London, the West Midlands has more Indians living within it than any other region in England.
The West Midlands receives more foreign direct investment from India than any other region outside of London and Birmingham’s VFR market grew by 71 per cent in 2013, now attracting more visitors from India than any English city other than London, according to our research.
“We are extremely thankful to Air India for recognising the demand from travellers needing the flexibility of daily services from Birmingham,” said Paul Kehoe, chief executive officer, Birmingham Airport. “It’s not surprising that the route has been such a success in its first year and I am certain that a daily service would make the Birmingham route even more appealing to Midlands’ travellers.”
This route marks the return of Air India to the Birmingham market. The carrier most recently offered flights to the city in the 2000s, offering links from May 2005 on the Amritsar – Birmingham – Toronto route. However, it suspended the service in October 2008 as it centralised its UK flight operations at London Heathrow, driven by the release of lucrative slots at the international airport following the introduction of 777-200LR equipment into the fleet. Due to its flight envelope, the 777 removed the need for the carrier’s onward connections to the US from the UK capital as destinations in North America could now be served directly from India.
In our analysis, below, we look in greater detail at O&D demand between Birmingham and destinations in India. According to MIDT data, upwards of 150,000 bi-directional O&D passengers fly between Birmingham and the India each year with additional traffic leaking to the London airports by ground transport.
Within just five months of operation of the new Birmingham route Air India had already secured a 25.3 per cent share of the market in 2013. However, it does not appear to have stimulated the market but instead taken traffic away from existing operators with Air France (-46.0 per cent), Emirates Airlines (-24.7 per cent), KLM (-28.4 per cent), Lufthansa (-31.1 per cent), Swiss International Air Lines (-27.1 per cent) and Turkish Airlines (-41.7 per cent) all seeing falls in demand between Birmingham and India, via their respective hubs.