It has been merely a fortnight since the operations of the flagship National carrier, Air India were handed back to the Tata Sons after 68 years. It all started off like a little child of JRD Tata, the airline has come a long way since then with many ups, downs, faced turbulence lately
But now it back to its original owner, in a happy endings. From aviation point of view, it is hoped that the Tata group will make this airline rise back to its past glory by bringing in professionalism, consistency and improvement in the hard & soft product and more streamlined marketing and operations.
While everyone was wondering to know how the Air India of future would be look like, it seems we already have a small glance of it coming. Well, as you would expect, Air India has updated its first major International market-London Heathrow post Tata Sons takeover, for the summer Schedule 2021.
These changes are live for bookings across the Air India booking portals and websites other booking platforms.
What are the changes?
In order to understand the changes better, you need to understand the history of Air India’s operations at London.
- Pre Covid
As of January-February 2020 before the deadly Covid-19 wave hit India, Air India used to have following operations at London.
|New Delhi-London Heathrow||14/Weekly|
Notably, Air India was also scheduled to launch a ‘Mumbai-London Stansted’ Route from 28 March, 2020 which could have been the second route out of London Stansted, apart from Amritsar but that could never happen due to Covid-19, followed by which Air India had to completely wrap operations out of London Stansted Station which also led to suspension of Amritsar-London Stansted route, started off with much hype.
- During Covid pandemic time
As the Covid-19 pandemic shook the world, it is a no wonder that the immediate tremors were felt across the Aviation Industry. Airlines had to devise new strategies with the dynamic pandemic to survive and Air India was no different, it adopted multiple strategies from triangular routes to new routes to suspensions and re-jingling of many of its routes, a major strategy lately has been to shift from Hub & Spoke model to P2P model, in order to minimize the contact of passengers to reduce the impact of Covid-19.
Keeping all this factors into account, along with slot constraints at Heathrow, dynamic CoViD situations, Air India for the first time proposed many new routes out of London Heathrow during the pandemic. The Air India’s current London Heathrow operations are as follows:
|New Delhi-London Heathrow||9/Weekly|
How the operations would look post Tata takeover
As of now, Air India is operating nonstop flights to 10 cities across India out of London Heathrow, highest ever in the history of Air India.
Post Tata Sons takeover, Air India is planning to take some aggressive decisions and looking forward to consolidate market. Based on the booking portals of AI, which was updated recently for Summer Schedule 2022, Following key decisions are taken-
- Frequency of AI-169 (Amritsar<>London Heathrow) will be scaled up from current 1/weekly to 3/weekly.
- Frequency of AI-171 (Ahmedabad<>London Heathrow) will be scaled up from current 2/weekly to 3/weekly.
- Frequency of AI-147 (Hyderabad<>London Heathrow) will be scaled up from current 2/weekly to 3/weekly
- No Change in the capacity of Delhi<>London Heathrow, Mumbai<>London Heathrow, Kochi<>London Heathrow and Goa<>London Heathrow.
- AI 177 (Bangalore<>London Heathrow) shall be terminated/suspended.
- AI 163 (Kolkata<>London Heathrow) shall be terminated/suspended.
- AI 151 (Chennai<>London Heathrow) shall be terminated/suspended.
How operations at London Heathrow for Air India would look now
|Ahmedabad<>London Heathrow||2/Weekly||3/Weekly||+1 Weekly|
|Amritsar<>London Heathrow||1/Weekly||3/Weekly||+2 Weekly|
|Bangalore<>London Heathrow||2/Weekly||Route suspended||-2 Weekly|
|Chennai<>London Heathrow||1/Weekly||Route suspended||-1 Weekly|
|Delhi<>London Heathrow||9/Weekly||9/Weekly||No change|
|Goa<>London Heathrow||2/Weekly||2/Weekly||No change|
|Hyderabad<>London Heathrow||2/Weekly||3/Weekly||+1 Weekly|
|Kochi<>London Heathrow||3/Weekly||3/Weekly||No change|
|Kolkata<>London Heathrow||1/Weekly||Route suspended||-1 Weekly|
|Mumbai<>London Heathrow||5/Weekly||5/Wkly||No change|
Post takeover by Tata group, Air India is taking some aggressive steps to revamp its London Heathrow network. Let’s have some analysis of these decisions to make the sense out of it, which will also help us give some idea about the possible plans of Tata Sons in future for Air India, in future.
- While Air India rejigs its network out of LHR, it is imperative to notice that the total capacity of Air India at London Heathrow remains the same, ie. 28 Weekly flights, making it clear that airline so far has not swapped its London Heathrow slots with any other airline, not acquired slots from any other airline for the Summer Schedule-2022.
- As Air India used to serve 10 routes out of London Heathrow, making the economics of operations and the logistics quite complex, now the airline will be serving only 7 routes out of London Heathrow consolidating its operations to a considerable extent. This will not only let airline focus on current 7 sectors even better, but would also be able to make a considerable impact in those markets by serving 3/weekly vs. say, 1 or 2/weekly especially for the Round-trip pax which the airline was losing on by flying at dispersed frequencies.
- While the suspension of Kolkata route does not comes as a surprise (due to the simple fact that the economics of long haul flights goes complex as flight time increases and whopping 10 hour Kolkata-London flight would have made it difficult to operate for a longer period,
- At the same time, suspension of primary markets, especially Bangalore-London Heathrow depicts the fact that how aggressive airline in planning to go, defying all the odds and conventional rules as you rarely see FSC’s opting out of Primary markets which are usually famously in the Aviation world, called upon for Premium Demand but at times, fail to gather success due to 1) excessive competition, 2) In the search of premium, FSC’s often fail to fill cabin from primary markets.
- Instead of going by primary notion, Air India is instead putting its bet of new, underdog secondary markets also getting monopoly advantage.
- While some of the secondary markets like Amritsar & Ahmedabad have been famous from decades as big markets from the UK and also flown by multiple airlines at times, a silver lining CoViD pandemic has brought out is to shine out new potential secondary markets for the UK, particularly the Goa & Kochi markets.
- Contrary to what many people was expecting that new Air India might go complete Hub & Spoke from current model (due to Vistara’s model by Tata Sons), as of now it seems probably the airline still will hold good dominance in the markets out of DEL/BOM and the airline has NOT re-routed all of its flights via DEL/BOM.
- In continuation to the last point, a major key factor behind this decision could be: Post Covid, thanks to multiple charters, repatriation flights and scheduled P2P flights operated by airlines (forced due to guidelines), the airlines got the confidence from the fact that passengers are ready to pay a good premium pricing, if given an option to fly nonstop instead of a layover. And there are many non-metro International routes, where a larger number of such people are willing to fly, for instance routes like we mentioned above.
What do you make out of this Air India’s decision? We wish Air India all the very best for their future endeavors in their new journey under Tata Sons and also hope that they would re-launch flights on European routes linking Rome (FCO), Milan Malpensa (MXP) and scale up operations to Birmingham (BHX).
Kindly Note: The opinions and facts mentioned in this article are solely based upon the latest booking portal updated by Air India for SS-22. We are in no way responsible for any changes in the dynamic booking portal which might be changed at any later stage.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR::
*Sanchit Chugh is a young Aviation enthusiast from Amritsar, Punjab. He is currently an undergrad student at BITS Pilani pursuing dual degree in Bachelor’s of Technology and Masters
in Economics. He is part of core team at FlyAmritsar Initiative and has an avid interest in Aviation.