India – Australia market becomes competitive as Qantas lands in Delhi today

In a few hours from now, VH-EBV (A330-200) of Qantas will land at Delhi Airport! This will mark the return of Qantas in India for scheduled commercial service after nearly a decade. 

In 2013, Air India launched flights to Australia after a gap of 22 years and it was the first direct flight from India to Australia after four years since Qantas pulled out in 2012! THe airline last operated to Delhi in 1974! Air India is now set to get competition on the India – Australia sector and on the exact same sectors which Air India operates! The airline has operated over 60 flights in the past 12 months to get Australians back to Australia. These flights were operated on behalf of the Australian government. 

Qantas, which launches the Sydney – Delhi flights (one way via Adelaide) today has upped the ante with flights from Melbourne as well. The services will be operated by the A330-200s, like the one deployed today. The Sydney – Delhi flight will operate thrice a week, which becomes daily starting January 03, 2022. The Melbourne flights will operate four times a week starting December 22, 2021. The airline will review the flights going forward and we would know how the airline adjusts frequency and if it makes this service a permanent affair.

The Sydney flights were to operate via Darwin, when announced but shifted to Adelade as the intermediate halt when Melbourne – Delhi flights were announced as well. The A330-200s of Qantas feature 27 business seats and 224 seats in economy.

The flights will be operated as below

QF67 SYD0610 – 0745ADL0845 – 1540DEL

QF68 DEL1755 – 1140(+1)SYD

The flights will operate on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays before starting Daily service from January 03, 2022.

QF69 MEL0925 – 1015ADL1115 – 1810DEL

QF70 DEL1955 – 1335(+1)MEL

The flights will operate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

What it means for Air India

Flights from Sydney to Delhi will have a technical stop at Adelaide while the return flight will be non-stop.Flights from Melbourne to Delhi will be launched from December 22, 2021, and operate four times a week.  The flight will also operate via Adelaide while the return flight from Delhi to Melbourne will fly non-stop. For now, the airline will accept bookings until March 2022 and could look at the situation to decide on the extension in the summer schedule.

Equipment and why the stop

WInter times in the northern hemisphere have severe headwinds flying from South/East to North. One can experience the same headwinds while flying from Guwahati to Delhi as well. On longer routes, the impact is much more! This makes the Sydney / Melbourne to Delhi route a challenging one and needs a stop while the return can be non-stop owing to tailwinds. The stop would not be necessary from March onwards when the wind patterns aren’t this extreme.

The airline is deploying its A330-200 aircraft in this sector. The airline also has B787-9s in its fleet, which are capable of flying longer. However, as the airline expands — it has a shortage of B787-9s which are already flying to London — amongst other destinations. The additional aircraft on order are stuck due to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) clearances being awaited for starting delivery of B787s as Boeing continues to struggle with defect after defect with the aircraft.

Qantas routing. Image creation with help of gcmap.com

What it means for Air India

Australia has selectively opened up, which means Indian citizens are not freely welcome. However, under the repatriation mission of India, operated primarily by Air India and called the Vande Bharat MIssion, Air India has been operating flights to Australia selectively all along with the pandemic. The airline relaunched services to Australia after a brief hiatus from November 15, 2021, flying to Sydney, to begin with. The airline is also launching services to Melbourne, a week before Qantas launches the flights.

Air India re-launched flights to Australia after two decades in 2013. The airline initially operated a triangular service as Delhi – Sydney – Melbourne – Delhi on a few days and the other way round on other days of the week, before de-linking the services and operating Delhi – Sydney and Delhi – Melbourne as non-stop terminator flights.

Since then the airline has maintained a steady presence in Australia, until the pandemic. This has meant that the airline has developed the non-stop market from scratch and just when it was time to reap the benefits came the pandemic and now the competition to share the benefits! While Air India has non-stops in both directions, the current restrictions, new variant of COVID-19 and entry barriers across countries means that the market is not open for everyone with the Total market size having shrunk than before.

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