After Heathrow in 2008, to Stansted in 2019 and again Heathrow in 2021, the Northern Indian city of Amritsar is now all set to be directly connected with London Gatwick by Air India.
As part of its global expansion plans, Air India will now be diversifying its presence in the UK, with new routes to London Gatwick (LGW) from Amritsar (ATQ), Ahmedabad (AMD), Goa (GOI) and Cochin (COK) in India.
Along with this, the airline will be ramping up the frequency between Delhi & Mumbai and London Heathrow (LHR), in the Summer Schedule of 2023.
With Air India’s decision to move the existing routes from these secondary cities to Gatwick from Heathrow, there are several advantages for the airline, but yet, it brings some new challenges as well. In this write-up, What Amritsar-Gatwick route could mean for Air India?
The Amritsar-UK is historically a proven market and yet, the Amritsar-London route have not experienced any decline but only growth, since the year 2008. The non-stop Amritsar-Stansted/Heathrow routes between the year 2019 and 2022 has continued to perform well for Air India.
In the first 10 months of 2022, from January-October, over 45,147 passengers have travelled non-stop between Amritsar and London Heathrow on Air India, with the average Passenger Load Factor (PLF) on this route at 83.81%.
On the other hand, the Amritsar-Birmingham route has also continued to perform well, with 22,152 passengers and an average PLF on this route at 87.08%, during the same period.
Demand For Gatwick?
With the ever-growing Punjab diaspora in UK, there is an estimated 500,000 people of the Punjabi-decent residing in the areas nearby of London, while over 300,000 nearby the areas of Birmingham and other cities.
While London Heathrow was the first preference for travel for the Punjabi diaspora nearby the areas of London, with Gatwick, Air India would still have an advantage with exclusive non-stop services between the two cities.
In the short term, Air India should focus on targeting more non-stop passengers, given how competitive the one-stop market is developing. Especially, as Tata Group’s yet-to-be-merged Vistara with Air India, is benefiting from a great traffic feed from Amritsar for its services between Delhi and London Heathrow.
While the British carrier, Virgin Atlantic, is also trying to establish its presence in Amritsar’s London market through its codeshare partner, IndiGo. At present, IndiGo is offering up to four daily connections to/from Heathrow via Delhi & Mumbai, from Amritsar on Virgin Atlantic services.
As per the data available, in the year 2019, there were over 100,000 point-to-point travellers between London and Amritsar, but yet, the actual traffic figures for Punjab would be much higher at about 250,000. In the long-term, Air India could certainly capture a greater share of this market as it expands its services between the two cities and most importantly the in-flight passenger experience in the near future.
London Gatwick not being a long-haul hub as Heathrow, offers a great disadvantage for Air India to capture the large share of the transit traffic to/from North America. This could certainly have an little impact on services not just between Gatwick and Amritsar, but other cities as well. According to the data available, a significant proportion of travellers from Amritsar were transiting further to Toronto and Vancouver via Heathrow on Star Alliance member Air Canada.
While Air India would certainly lose the share of these passengers, the airline can really benefit from Punjab’s large North American traffic, with initiation of non-stop services between Amritsar and North America, particularly to Toronto and Vancouver, which could further open-up infinite opportunities for Air India.
As Air India continues to expand its international network, in a aim to capture a greater proportion of market share, the airline could certainly capture a greater share of Amritsar’s London market with even 5x services seasonally in the long-term, as this market continues to develop.
With strategic planning and evaluation of certain aspects, the airline could also focus on developing Amritsar as a secondary hub in Northern India after Delhi, and connect it with cities such as Kolkata in the eastern India for feeder traffic to expand its European network from Amritsar.
In addition to London Gatwick, Air India will also continue to operate thrice-weekly non-stop services between Amritsar and Birmingham in the Summer Schedule of 2023.