National carrier Air India has opened reservations for its flights to Hong Kong from Mumbai. The airline has been trying to add flights to Hong Kong for the last couple of years and has either found it difficult to fit in a spare rotation or slots at Hong Kong. The schedule change was reported by routes online and the flights are now open for sale in Summer as well as winter schedule.
Air India will cancel its current fifth freedom route of Hong Kong – Seoul and Hong Kong – Osaka, which was a continuation of its flight from Mumbai via Delhi to Hong Kong and onwards to Seoul – 4 times a week and to Osaka – 3 times a week. The non-stop flight is effective 19th September 2019 and so are the changes. This effectively means curtains for flights to Osaka by Air India. The Mumbai – Hong Kong flight will operate as per below
AI316 BOM0835 – 1650HKG
AI311 HKG1805 – 2155BOM
These will be daily flights operated by the B787-8 Dreamliner.
Air India is adding a slew of international flights and a few of those were announced by the Hon. Minister of Civil Aviation on twitter. This included the Delhi – Toronto flight which begins thrice a week starting 27th September. The airline is also adding flights to Dubai from Indore and Kolkata starting mid-July and yet to open reservations for flights to Nairobi from Mumbai and between Delhi & Bali via Chennai.
The re-jig to Hong Kong flights is primarily due to slots at Hong Kong. The airport is one of the busiest in the world and also one of the most congested with close to 99% of slots already allotted. While a new airline gets preference, Air India is historic carrier and does not get preference in slot allocation.
Low cost carrier Spicejet is starting non-stop flights to Hong Kong from Mumbai, operated by dual class B737s. These ex-Jet Airways planes will be used to operate to Hong Kong at nearly identical timings like those of Jet Airways.
Air India currently operated Delhi – Hong Kong – Osaka / Seoul – Hong Kong – Delhi rotation which originates and terminates at Mumbai. The airline has re-jigged the departure of its flights to Delhi from Hong Kong which will help operate a Hong Kong – Delhi at different time and the evening slots would not be used for Mumbai – Hong Kong – Mumbai.
The above table shows, how Air India has been able to add flights at Hong Kong without touching its slots or asking for more but at the cost of cutting down fifth freedom flights to Osaka and Seoul from Hong Kong.
Air India is taking this opportunity to launch 4x weekly non-stop flights to Seoul from New Delhi operated by the B787-8 Dreamliner.
AI312 DEL0020 – 0950ICN
AI313 ICN1205 – 1635DEL
The flights will operate on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Fellow Star Alliance member Asiana airlines is withdrawing its five weekly service to Delhi while Korean Air is increasing its frequency to Delhi from 5x weekly to Daily, effective 1st September.
Air India is doing the much-needed change to its network. With a one-stop option from Mumbai, it wasn’t a viable option for business travelers. However, in doing so the timings are not the best from either Delhi or Mumbai.
The Delhi – Hong Kong flight connects outbound to the European bank and could see the airline get some incremental passengers, but the wait is too long on the way back to Hong Kong. Slots permitting, the airline should look at having the Hong Kong flights at mid-day in line with other European departures, by rotating the aircraft between Delhi and Mumbai. The airline is holding fairly prime slots at Hong Kong and may not want to let go of either of these pairs.