Azerbaijani national carrier – Azerbaijan Airlines also known as AZAL is launching flights to Mumbai, starting Saturday, November 12, 2022. Mumbai will be the second destination in India for the airline, after returning to Delhi this August. The airline had launched India operations in June 2019. The Air Services Agreement (ASA) between the two countries allows for seven weekly services. With these flights to Mumbai, AZAL would use up 4 of these with no utilisation from the Indian side.
The flight timings are similar to those it operates at Delhi. While the Delhi flights from Baku operate on Tuesday and Friday, those to Mumbai will operate on Wednesday and Saturday from Baku, while the return flight on Thursday and Sunday. Similar to Delhi, the flights will be operated by dual class A320.
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The airline will offer 20 Business Class and 126 Economy class seats on this flight. As per its website, Azal operates a fleet of 15 aircraft for commercial service and comprises A319 (Four), A320 (Six), A340-500 (Two), B757 (One), 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 airline recently launched on-board streaming which is available on its A319 and A320 aircraft. Passengers will be able to use their mobile devices (phones and tablets) to connect to the aircraft’s multimedia network via Wi-Fi, after which they will be able to watch hundreds of feature films, documentaries and animated films/series, sports and show programs, as well as a range of content of various type on their own gadget.
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.
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 the 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. Uzbekistan Airways and Air Astana have tried expanding beyond Delhi but that was pre-COVID. AZAL joins the list to cater to the increasing tourists from India and the ever growing transfer traffic.
Most of these former USSR countries have airlines which want to diversify towards Europe and beyond and can’t ignore the large market which India provides. While China might provide a larger market, India remains in the sweet spot of operating with narrowbody and that is what makes it more lucrative.
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!