New Delhi, Sept. 6: Air India is likely to start direct flights to Sydney after it gets the first of the 27 Boeing 787 Dreamliners this weekend.
The new B787 will fly down from Seattle to New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on Saturday morning.
Air India chairman Rohit Nandan said, “The 787 will allow us to open new routes.”
Boeing said the aircraft had the range to fly on routes such as Australia, West Asia, the US and Europe.
Sources in the state-run carrier said they would use the aircraft to tap Australia, considered as a “gold mine of a route”.
“Australia is a lucrative market with growing business, leisure and student traffic, which is still poorly serviced by direct flights,” said Anil Bhandari, chairman of AB Smart Concepts and former managing director of ITDC and International Travel House.
Direct flights between Mumbai and Sydney are likely to start by the end of September. At present, Air India flies only to Melbourne in the Australian continent. The airline is also likely to add non-stop flights to the US next month to its existing Chicago and New York flights.
“We will start direct flights between Mumbai and Sydney soon. The route will be profitable for Air India and is part of the turnaround plan,” said an Air India official.
Around 1.5 lakh Indians are expected to travel to Australia this year and the number is expected to grow three-fold to nearly half a million in 10 years.
For the first few weeks, the Dreamliner will fly in domestic sectors, including the Delhi-Mumbai route, to enable the pilots and the crew to get accustomed to its functioning.
Later, Air India plans to start daily flights from Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai to New York, Osaka and Melbourne. The 259-seater, wide-bodied Dreamliner will be used for medium and long-haul flights.
Air India plans to take delivery of two more Dreamliners by early next month and get all the aircraft by 2016.