Air India has scratched its planned daily non-stop service from Delhi to Melbourne – at least for now.
The flights were due to begin last month but Air India missed two provisional start dates due to regulatory delays, as the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry refused to grant permission for the service.
When finally approved following an eleventh hour decision late in October, Air India said the delay had damaged its marketing strategy and would cause the airline to miss the peak northern winter season.
Australian Business Traveller understands the daily service may be revived, but not until mid-2011 at the earliest.
A question mark remains over the route’s profitability, however. Both Air India and Qantas cancelled earlier services between Australian and India due to low patronage.
But with India now one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and as Air India now has opportunity to offer Australia's only direct daily service between Melbourne and Delhi, the airline is hoping the tide will turn in its favour.
After plenty of hiccups and delays, Air India has been authorized by their country's Civil Aviation Industry to fly direct from Mumbai to Melbourne. Despite the approval a date for the route has not yet been set, as Air India deals with a raft of financial concerns.
In June of this year, Melbourne beat out Sydney in a battle for the new direct line. The victory has proven bittersweet, as the plan continues to suffer setbacks, including two previous rejections from India's air regulator. As recently as two weeks ago, there was doubt as to whether or not the arrangement would ever go ahead.
Currently, there are no direct routes from Australia to India. Qantas previously offered the service, before dropping the axe due to a lack of demand. They now codeshare with Jet Airways to India, traveling from most Australian states to Mumbai or Delhi, stopping over at Singapore's Changi Airport.
The interruptions stem from troubles the Indian carrier has had in meeting government-set goals relating to revenue and cost cutting. Livemint.com reports that Air India is being refused a second financial bailout by the cabinet committee on economic affairs.
This decision is unlikely to be reversed unless the targets are achieved, which could mean sacrificing flights to Australia.