The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging period for the global aviation industry to navigate its course through, and it still continues to do so. While most airlines continues to successfully maintain balance sheets, some even had to shut their business forever.
The pandemic has forced the global aviation industry to adapt to rapid evolving situations across the globe, which also has led to a number of airlines, innovating there business models, international networks, by exploring various new products and routes respectively.
For some of the most prominent airlines across the globe, Amritsar was not also an experimental destination for them, but an opportunity. The opportunity to discover the highly potential underserved international market of Amritsar.
Amritsar Tops UK & Canada Repatriation
When India was in complete nationwide lockdown in April-May 2020, British Airways and Qatar Airways operated over 28 non-stop repatriation flights from Amritsar to London, repatriating over 8,271 UK citizens. These figures represents over 50% of the total repatriation flights and citizens repatriated from India by the UK Government.
During the same time period, Qatar Airways operated a total of 25 repatriation flights from Amritsar to Toronto & Vancouver in Canada, repatriating 7,516 Canadian citizens, for the Canadian Government, which were as well highest from India.
Amritsar’s Hold Over India’s Direct Connectivity With Italy
While the Amritsar’s markets of the UK and Canada are evident since decades, Amritsar has now also proven to be the most demanded destination for a pretty old European market for India, Italy.
Yes, you read that correct, it isn’t Delhi, Mumbai or Bengaluru, but, Amritsar has emerged to be the most demanded destination in India for the European nation, Italy.
Today, and for more than a year now, Amritsar is the only city in India, which has direct connectivity with Rome & Milan in Italy. You probably would be wondering how did it happened? Why not even from Delhi?
Direct Connectivity Ended The Traffic Leakage
For an quick outlook of this market, the European nation, Italy has one of the largest Indian diaspora settled, with the Punjabi diaspora being the most dominant. There are over about 2,50,000 Punjabi’s residing across Italy, mainly in the regions of Rome, Milan & Verona. This makes a large Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) market between Amritsar and Italy.
In September 2020, one of the first charter flight operated by an Indian carrier departed Amritsar for Italy, and ever since than there have been over more then about 500 special charter flights operated between Amritsar and Rome & Milan in Italy, till date.
According to the data collected by FlyAmritsar Initiative, from September 2020 to April 2021, a total of about 38,000 passengers travelled between these routes. This was despite the fact that only one-way traffic on Amritsar-Italy routes were permitted to travel in the initial months of these charter flights.
In May 2021, The Government Of Italy had imposed an complete ban on all direct international flights from India, which led to suspension of these charter flights as well. This ban by the Italy was finally relaxed in August 2021, after which these charter flights between Amritsar and Italy were also resumed. The demand for these routes from Amritsar was even more higher now.
The continuous success of charter on these routes to Italy, eventually ended Punjab’s Italy’s traffic leakage to Delhi. This probably even made Air India to reroute its non-stop Delhi-Rome flights as Delhi-Amritsar-Rome in February 2021.
This could probably give an idea that how just not Italy but overall how much Punjab’s international traffic is being leaked to Delhi and other major airports in India, due to non-strategic development of the industry in the state.
Amritsar: Most Popular Connection Destination
Pre-Pandemic, a number of carriers including, Uzbekistan Airways and Qatar Airways, were serving considerable share of Amritsar’s Italy market, while a large share was captured by Delhi as well. According to the data by OAG analyser, Amritsar-Milan route was Air India’s top 11th one-way connection via Delhi in the year 2015, with over 7,300 passengers.
If it wasn’t the COVID-19 pandemic, the market between Amritsar and Italy with this kind of huge potential may never have been proven at all. A number of Indian carriers including IndiGo as well as SpiceJet has been operating on these routes, with the latter now the king of this market.
SpiceJet Rules The Market
The Indian Low-Low-Cost Carrier, SpiceJet is at present is ruling this market between Amritsar and Italy, by operating majority of these charters till date, and with multiple charter flights a week being scheduled in the upcoming months as well. Interestingly, these are being done, even with the international air travel demand once again taking a downturn due to the sudden surge of COVID-19 disease across the globe.
While at present the airline does not have any wide-body aircraft in its fleet, the airline, previous year at first has been operating its charters with its wet-leased A321ceo aircraft from HiFly Airlines but soon upgraded the equipment on these routes to HiFly’s A330neo, in early 2021.
At present, the airline is operating on these routes with its wet-leased Boeing 767 aircraft from EuroAtlantic Airways. Along with SpiceJet, the Italian carrier, Neos Airlines is at present, is also operating charter flights between Amritsar and Italy for an another operator.
Future Opportunities For Indian Carriers
While at present Amritsar is not the Point Of Call (POC) included in the Bilateral Air Service Agreements between India and Italy, for Italian carriers, a number of Indian carriers could potentially serve this routes to Italy from Amritsar, with scheduled services in the near future.
In the previous months, it was reported in the media that SpiceJet would be taking the delivery of over 2 Boeing 777 aircrafts from the Boeing, in return for its compensation of Boeing 737 Max 8 aircrafts, which had been grounded for nearly over 2 years in India, over safety concerns.
There is a strong possibility that, if the airline takes delivery of these aircrafts, the airline could potentially launch non-stop scheduled services between Amritsar and Rome & Milan in Italy, while also considering Amritsar’s North American market in the near future.
The Indian Full-Service Carrier, Vistara could be a other potential candidate for this ever-developing market. The airline could potentially evaluate this market for its future network development across Europe from India.
One of the advantages, the airline would be having on Amritsar-Rome route is that, with strategic planning with its codeshare partner, Air Canada, which at present operates non-stop flights between Toronto, Canada and Rome, Italy, along with serving the Italy travel demand, could also serve a considerable share of Amritsar’s huge Canada’s market, which at present is completely dependent upon Delhi.
About The Author
Ravreet Singh is a 17-year old blogger who has an avid interest in aviation business. His main focus in aviation is about worldwide connectivity of Amritsar-Punjab. He is the youngest team member of FlyAmritsar Initiative, a public advocacy campaign for better air connectivity & sustainable development of Amritsar.