Despite being in a precarious financial situation, Air India is not an airline to miss an opportunity. As the gaps in capacity from Jet Airways’ collapse become clear to see, the Indian flag carrier is laying on a number of new routes for the winter season. The latest announcements include new routes to Kuwait City and Doha, as well as increased frequency to Dubai and a return to Nairobi, where the carrier last flew in 2010.
New services for winter ’19
Air India has registered schedule changes which show the airline expanding into the Middle East, as well as resuming flights to Nairobi.
As per reporting by Routes Online, Air India will add two new routes to Doha from Delhi and from Mumbai to Kuwait City, starting in October and running throughout the winter period. In addition to this, the carrier is increasing services to Dubai from Mumbai from 14 flights a week to 17.
According to the Routes report, the Delhi to Doha route will operate four times a week, with the schedule looking like this:
- Delhi to Doha: Leaves Delhi at 14:20 on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, arriving at Doha at 18:35. On Fridays it leaves Delhi at 15:20, arriving in Doha at 19:35.
- Doha to Delhi: Leaves Doha at 19:35 on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, arriving at Delhi at 23:30. On Fridays, it leaves Doha at 20:35, arriving in Delhi at 00:20 (+1 day).
The route will launch on the 29th October 2019, and will be operated by an Airbus A321.
As for the Kuwait City route, this will run every day to the following schedule:
- Mumbai to Kuwait City: Leaves Mumbai at 22:45, arriving in Kuwait at 00:10 (+1 day).
- Kuwait City to Mumbai: Leaves Kuwait at 01:10, arriving in Mumbai at 07:40.
Similarly, this route will use Air India’s A321 aircraft, but this will launch sooner, on the 27th October 2019.
The final change is some additional frequencies for the carrier’s existing Mumbai to Dubai service. This will move up from 14 to 17 flights per week, so the schedule will be as follows:
- Mumbai to Dubai: Leaves Mumbai at 00:45 and 19:50 daily, arriving at Dubai at 02:40 and 21:55 respectively. On Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, there will also be a flight leaving Mumbai at 07:55, arriving in Dubai at 10:15.
- Dubai to Mumbai: Leaves Dubai at 04:00 and 23:40 daily, arriving in Mumbai at 08:45 and 04:10 (+1 day). On Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays there will also be a service departing Dubai at 12:00, which arrives in Mumbai at 16:30 on Mondays, but for some reason takes 15 minutes longer on Thursdays and Fridays.
In terms of aircraft, the Mumbai to Dubai route is something of a mixed bag. The daily 00:45 flight and the Monday, Thursday and Friday 07:55 flights (AI911 and AI909), as well as their Dubai pairs (AI912 and AI910), operate using Air India’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. The later daily flights all use an Airbus A321. The additional capacity will be added from 28th October 2019.
Aside from the Middle East, Routes Online reports that Air India will resume service to Nairobi, with a four times a week service beginning 27th November 2019. Flying on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, the schedule at this time looks as follows:
- Mumbai to Nairobi: Departs Mumbai at 04:05, arriving in Nairobi at 07:30.
- Nairobi to Mumbai: Departs Nairobi at 09:00, arriving in Mumbai at 17:30.
The flight to the Kenyan capital will be entirely operated by a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. It will be the carrier’s first appearance in Nairobi for almost a decade, with the last flight taking place in January 2010.
Picking up the Jet Airways slack
This massive route expansion comes at a difficult time for Air India. The current financial crisis has seen the Indian government poised to sell its 95% stake in the carrier, and the airline is currently unable to refuel at a number of Indian airports, due to debts owing.
Nevertheless, Air India are not one to miss an opportunity, and with no Jet Airways to fill these routes, the carrier is clearly keen to step into the breach. Jet Airways previously flew to Kuwait, Doha and Dubai, as well as a number of other Middle Eastern destinations, so there is clearly some capacity there to be picked up.
The Nairobi route, however, is something of a puzzle. Having been absent from the route for almost 10 years, to return to a destination that didn’t work before, particularly in these difficult times, is a bit of a risk. However, Business Daily Africa points out that huge numbers of Kenyans travel to India, particularly for medical treatment, so perhaps times have changed.
Previously, Air India boosted its domestic capacity to grab some of the available market share left by the demise of Jet. Now, it seems they are doing the same with their international routes too.