Azerbaijani national carrier – Azerbaijan Airlines also known as AZAL is returning to India starting August 09, 2022. The airline made an announcement to such effect in the third week of July. The airline had started flights to Delhi in June 2019 with one frequency a week and scaled it up to twice a week flights from August 2019. The flights had stabilised to an extent before the pandemic stopped all operations for a little over two years. The Air Services Agreement (ASA) between Azerbaijan and India allows seven weekly services.
The return of AZAL signals that normalcy is returning and airlines are looking at selective routes to expand. This time around the airline is deploying its Airbus A320 aircraft, replacing the B752 it deployed in 2019. The flight timings are more or less similar but with additional block time to cater to the new reality of closed airspace over Afghanistan.
J25001 GYD1930 – 0130(+1)DEL
J25002 DEL0230 – 0505GYD
The airline has six A320s in its fleet and are configured in dual class with 20 Business Class and 126 Economy class seats. Azal operates a fleet of 21 aircraft for commercial service and comprises A319 (Four), A320 (Six), A340-500 (Two), B757 (Five), B767 (Two) and B787 (Two). The airlines signed an MoU with Boeing at Farnborough International Airshow to add four 787-8s to its fleet.
The current flight allows two way connectivity to Prague, Moscow, Antalya, Istanbul and Tbilisi. Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport is the largest airport in Azerbaijan and main hub for the airliner and serves Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The country has seen rapid growth of wealth on the back of oil reserves which it fully explored after independence from the Soviet Union. Baku has a unique distinction of being below sea level. A city of over two million, it is now known for Flame towers – the icon the country uses in all advertisements worldwide.
New Delhi is the capital of India and the largest airport in the country in terms of movements and passenger traffic. Over the last couple of years, New Delhi has shaped up as a regional capital having attracted airlines from Poland, Ukraine and other regions of the world. India has been building trade connections with former Soviet republics and there has been a remarkable increase in trade between Azerbaijan and India, over the last few years.
Over the years, India’s bilateral trade with Azerbaijan has increased substantially from around US$ 50 million in 2005 to around US$ 1093 million in 2019. In 2020, due to COVID-19 pandemic, bilateral trade decreased to US$ 583 million in 2020, but recovered to US$ 739 million in 2021 registering an increase of 27%. Import from India increased from US$ 44.67 million in 2011 to US$ 144.67 million in 2021. The important items of direct and indirect imports from India to Azerbaijan are rice, drugs, mobile phones, granite, ceramic tiles, devices and equipment of automatic regulation and control, black tea, mechanical spades and excavators, kali and natrium bromide, antibiotics, meat of large horned livestock, human vaccine, centrifugal liquid-pumps etc. The major items of exports from Azerbaijan to India were crude oil, iodine, oil coke, methanol etc.
The A320s come with overhead video monitors as per the airline website, in both the classes. The airline has an interesting feature on offer though. Airline food is the much discussed thing often. There are passengers who love airline food and then there are those who would avoid eating in-flight. In case of AZAL, if you are flying Economy class and fancy a Business class meal – the airline has an option to additionally purchase one. You can order one of the pre-offered meals which will be served in flight in Economy class.
Airlines from the former USSR are turning out to be more ambitious than their Indian counterparts over the years. Air Astana, Turkmenistan Airlines, Uzbekistan Airways have had flights to India for a long time. AZAL joins the list to cater to the increasing tourists from India and the ever growing transfer traffic.
Indians are travelling like never before and airlines from India need to relook at how they can cater to this traffic and with an ever growing network to ASEAN, how can they connect new points from the West to ASEAN!