Air India Boosting US Flights Amid University Travel

Air India is ramping up its US schedule in August as students begin flying for the commencement of the school year. The flag carrier will more than double flights to 21 services every week, with New York remaining the most popular destination. The move comes as ticket prices to the US have increased 10-fold as flights remain limited and demand skyrockets.

Air India Boeing 777-337(ER) VT-ALU
Air India was only flying 10 weekly flights from the US until this week, leaving many struggling to find flights home. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Ramped up

As fall terms begin in the US, Air India is ramping up its schedule once again, according to Indian Express. The new schedule comes into effect from August 7th and will see 21 weekly flights to the US, a doubling from the current 10 flights. Destinations include New York (JFK and Newark), Chicago, and San Francisco.

However, this has not been enough to cater to the surge of passengers. Air India has also announced special flights from Delhi to Newark on the 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th of August. While this has helped prices come down slightly, tickets remain dramatically more expensive than previously.

United 787-10
United is the only other airline flying directly from India but was also flying reduced flights. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

University terms usually commence in the last two weeks of August, giving airlines heavy traffic. While this year only students on a valid visa may travel, and no other family members, it’s clear that Air India has not prepared for this surge.

Currently, a one-way flight from New Delhi to New York JFK is priced at a mind-boggling ₹357,000 or $4,800 for the second week of August. This is due to economy class and even business on some flights being fully booked.

Ticket prices only begin falling in the last week of August, when terms have already started. The extra flights will be a reprieve to many hoping to travel in the next 15 days. As with any high-demand route, booking as early as possible is key, so don’t hold out for better prices.

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Usually, airlines are well prepared for university travel and roll out offers months in advance to attract travelers. However, COVID has upended the usual connectivity between the US and India. The US travel ban in May meant Air India and United both drew down their schedule to essential services since only US residents and students could travel.

However, the Indian government continuing ban on international flights and “travel bubbles” mean connecting flights are meager. Traditional connections through the Middles and others remain off-limits due to India’s ban. Travel bans have also affected the availability, with airlines like Emirates and Etihad unable to carry passengers.

Emirates Airbus A380-800
Travel restrictions mean countries like the UAE are off-limits for even transit passengers to the US. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

All of this has caused prices on the limited direct flights to shoot up in recent weeks. Air India intervention will help some passengers, so keep an eye out on Twitter and search engines to spot new services. However, with flights still well below the 40 weekly services before May, prices will remain high.

What do you think about the recent increase in US flight prices? Has your travel been affected? Let us know in the comments!