According to a report of Gulf News, Air India Express, the budget airline of Air India, will stop operating between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and high-demand destinations such as Mumbai and Delhi.
This move is part of Air India’s overhaul of its global operations and with a record order for new aircraft having been placed. The changes will take effect on March 26, 2023, as part of the airline’s summer schedule for 2023.
According to P. P. Singh, Regional Manager for both Indian carriers’ Gulf, Middle East, and Africa networks, Air India Express will now only serve flights to Tier-2 cities in India, while Air India will discontinue flights to Goa, Indore, and Kozhikode. Air India’s Sharjah-Kozhikode service will also be discontinued.
Singh further added that Passengers who booked flights to Mumbai or Delhi on Air India Express have been advised to rebook.
Eventually, full-service carrier, Air India will only fly to major cities in India, leaving smaller cities to Air India Express.
No changes to number of seats, only reshuffling of flights
Singh also confirmed that no changes would be made to flight capacities or seat allocations and that decisions would be made based on route performance and economics.
Air India is experiencing a passenger load factor of 80-85 per cent, with heavy forward bookings for summer travel, with heavy forward bookings for summer travel.
Potential impact on budget flying options
Travel agents in the UAE are concerned that network realignment will have an impact on India-UAE fares during peak summer months. Air India is the only airline that can transport wheelchair passengers and has larger cargo capacities. The lack of wide-body aircraft to more Indian destinations would have an indirect impact on airfares.
A UAE-based travel agent said that “Air India is the only airline that can transport passengers in wheelchairs and has bigger cargo capacities.”
“The lack of wide-body aircraft to more destinations in India would indirectly impact airfares.”
Current Economy class fares from Dubai- Delhi on Air India, for example, are priced at Dh978 (March 27-April 4). Summertime rates on the same route for July 1-August 30 have already shot up to Dh1,545 and will increase further.
Air India Express fares during this time period are Dh1,557.
India Rejects Increasing Air Traffic Rights for UAE
Recently, Jyotiraditya Scindia, India’s Civil Aviation Minister, stated that the country is not considering increasing air traffic rights for the UAE in light of Air India’s expansion plans.
Notably, the UAE has urged India to increase the maximum number of seats available between the two countries to 50,000 per week, up from around 65,000 currently.
“At this point, we’re not looking at increasing it,” said Aviation Ministry Scindia.
Emirates Urges India to Embrace Open Skies Agreement
Emirates President Tim Clark has urged India to sign an Open Skies agreement, which would grant carriers greater access to each other’s markets. Clark believes that increased air access is necessary because demand is so high.
(Source and Inputs From Gulf News)
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