Could India Become A Booming Stopover Country For Connecting Flights?

As India’s aviation market continues growing, could we see the country become a major stopover destination? India is home to two full-service carriers, Air India and Vistara, and well-located between Europe and East Asia. So, will India be able to capitalize on the new wave of travel? Let’s find out.

Indian Airlines
Delhi and Mumbai would be two prospective stopover cities. Photo: Getty Images

Optimal geographic location

One of the main criteria to become an effective stopover country is geographic location. Countries that have succeeded in becoming major stopover destinations are those located between key continents. Looking at other regions that have become booming stopover countries, we see two areas in the lead: the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

For India, its geographical location puts it squarely between Europe and East Asia. Most European destinations are between seven and nine hours away from cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. Major Asian hubs such as Singapore and Ho Chi Minh are five hours in the other direction. India would also attract traffic from the Middle East, however, this is a much smaller market.

Emirates A380
The UAE has become a booming stopover destination due to its prime location. Photo: Emirates

The Middle East capitalized on its location between the East and the West, connecting passengers globally. The Southeast Asian cities found a market in connecting passengers to Australia and other booming Asian countries. Just like these regions, India offers a unique location too.

Growing airline industry

Another essential factor to be a major stopover hub is the presence of a robust and reliable airline. Carriers such as Emirates, Qatar, Cathay Pacific, and Singapore Airlines have been pivotal in attracting tourists to their respective countries. India has struggled to do the same with Air India, which has been beset with operational and service issues. However, all of this is set to change.

The entry of Vistara into long-haul operations with its 787 Dreamliner will allow it to fill in Jet Airways’ role and expand direct routes from India. Furthermore, Air India’s privatization could see a huge facelift for the airline, allowing it to rebrand itself and offer superior service.

Vistara 787 Dreamliner
Vistara’s long-haul operations could be a massive boost to Indian tourism if planned well. Photo: Vistara

However, it is not only full-service carriers that are incumbent in India. The country is home to large low-cost carriers such as IndiGo and Spicejet, which offer passengers a cheaper alternative to explore the rest of the continent. IndiGo, in particular, has expanded to several international destinations and codeshares with Qatar and Turkish Airlines, allowing easy connections for passengers.

So, will it come together?

The final piece of the puzzle, and the most tricky one, is cooperation from the Indian government. In order to become a stopover hub, India will have to invest heavily in building new terminals, offer visa-free access, and facilitate tourist experiences. All of this will require coordination with airlines and local agencies, a task in which the country has failed for decades. Only with extensive investment in tourism, and bolstered airline infrastructure, will India become a new tourist hub.

It’s clear that India has many of the pieces needed to become a major stopover hub. India is a popular tourist destination for many around the globe, it will soon have two large carriers providing direct routes, and the market is only growing. If India plays its cards right in the coming years, especially with government support, it could see itself become a major hub.

What do you think about India becoming a major stopover destination? Would you connect through India? Let us know in the comments below. 

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