Indian flag carrier Air India has operated its first direct service linking London and Amritsar. The flight took off from London Stansted today amid a huge celebration. The route is, in fact, only the second long haul route being operated from the airport.
Emirates has, since the collapse of Primera and more recently WOW air, been the only long-haul operator from Stansted Airport. However, now there is a new airline on the block. Before low-cost startup flypop has been able to launch the route, Air India has commenced flights between London Stansted and Amritsar in India.
London’s low-cost Hub
London Stansted is widely regarded as a low-cost hub for London. The airport is a good 45-minute train ride from Central London, as opposed to the much quicker transfer to LHR via the Heathrow Express. As a result, the airport struggles to attract a lot of long-haul traffic despite favorable demographics.
Emirates does, however, have an interest in the Essex Airport. The Dubai based carrier operates two Boeing 777 flights from the airport per day; an afternoon and an evening flight. In total, Emirates operates eleven flights between London and Dubai each day including operating from Heathrow and Gatwick.
The new Stansted service
Today Emirates lost its title as London Stansted Airport’s only long haul operator. It is now accompanied by Air India, which has launched services to Amritsar. The connection becomes the first direct flight between the two cities. Previously passengers had to fly to a large Indian airport such as Delhi, and connect onwards to Amritsar.
As is usual at such Route inaugurations, the occasion didn’t go unnoticed. While KLM recently held a send-off for its final 747 service to Chicago with cupcakes, Air India took a different approach. The airline brought a taste of India to the Essex air terminal. The flight was operated by a Boeing 787 with a “specially painted tribute to mark the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak Dev ji, the founder of the Sikh religion”.
Inside the terminal, however, there was Bollywood dancing accompanied by live music. The CEO of Air India, Aruna Gopalakrishnan, also gave a speech on the occasion. She told reporters:
“India has always been an important and popular destination for not only the Indian Diaspora in UK but also for UK residents, both for tourism, pilgrimage and business interests… The new route will facilitate major business opportunities in both countries and will further boost business and trade and invite investment building upon the growing business base.”
The route launch comes as Stansted based low-cost startup flypop is also eyeing launching flights on the route. While the start-up is yet to establish flights, it is supportive of competition on the route. Earlier this year an Air India Boeing 777 made an unscheduled stop in Stansted following an inflight scare.
Will you fly on Air India’s new route to Amritsar? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.