Air India has flown over 1 million passengers since international flights resumed in May. With thousands of repatriation flights, the airline continues to enjoy a dominant position among international traffic. The milestone comes as the Air India sale heats up, with the government hoping to complete the process soon.
Air India has reached the one million passenger mark with 7,791 repatriation flights, spanning 74 destinations globally, according to a press release seen by the Times of India. We could well see the airline surpass the 10,000 flight mark by early next year, with plans to add another 1,600 flights through December.
International flights resumed in the first week of May but were originally limited to Air India-run repatriation flights. The mission, know as Vande Bharat, has since grown into a massive project, with multiple airlines operating hundreds of flights every month. Notably, all Air India flights (minus domestic ones) are classified as repatriation, including flights under the new travel bubbles.
Air India’s high flight count can be chalked up to its dominance on international routes. As India’s major long-haul carrier, it is the only airline offering connections to the US, continental Europe, and Australia. While others have been rivaling Air India’s dominance, they remain far behind the flag carrier’s robust schedules.
Are repatriation flights still necessary?
Vande Bharat essential repatriation to countries such as Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and others, many of whom have not signed travel agreements with India. Scheduled international flights remain banned in India, which means passengers have to take Air India flights if they are going to or returning from a non-bubble country.
India has allowed foreign carriers to return to India through travel bubbles instead, which are essentially bilateral flight permissions. This allows passengers to take connecting flights, providing much more connectivity compared to repatriation flights. However, key regions still do not have flights, making repatriation services necessary too.
Air India sale
Today was meant to the final deadline for the Air India sale, but this has since been extended to mid-December, according to Business Standard. The government has also allowed bidders to purchase Air India at equity value instead of enterprise value. The former is the value of the airline’s shares while the latter includes debt, cash, and equity value.
By dropping the total asking price for Air India, the government has made it clear that it wants to see the airline privatized soon. Mounting losses mean the only other option would be shutting down the carrier, according to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.
This week’s milestone is positive for Air India, especially considering how much international traffic is struggling globally. However, with more airlines entering the market every day, the carrier could lose its competitive advantage, hurting its privatization prospects.
Have you flown on a repatriation flight? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!