Why London To Amritsar Could Be Lucrative For Indian Airlines

Air India recently started operating a once-weekly service between London Heathrow and Amritsar under the Vande Bharat Mission. The overwhelming demand for passengers between the two cities, before and during the pandemic, has led to many calling for a regularly scheduled route too. Here’s why London to Amritsar could be lucrative for Indian airlines.

Air India flies thrice-weekly between London Stansted and Amritsar. Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying

High capacity route

The main reason why London to Amritsar can be lucrative is due to the high traffic on the route. Estimates in 2019 said that nearly 200,000 people fly between the two cities, making it a prime candidate for a direct route. The presence of a large Punjabi community in the UK and strong business ties ensure both leisure and business traffic on the route.

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Currently, the only direct route between the two cities is a thrice-weekly Air India service to London Stansted. The route started late last year using the airline’s 256-seat 787-8 Dreamliner. While this was a good start, there remain a few things lacking with this flight.

Air India 787
The Air India route simply doesn’t offer enough capacity to fulfil demand on the route. Photo: Boeing

As mentioned, there are nearly 200,000 passengers between Amritsar and London every year. However, the thrice-weekly Air India flight can only service a maximum of 40,000 passengers every year, only 20% of the capacity. Air India would have to up its flights to daily services and switch to a 777-300ER if it hopes to capture over 50% of the traffic.

Another drawback on the Air India route has been that it flies to Stansted and not the better-connected Heathrow. Many advocates for a switch of airport, in a statement to the Times of India, say that the Punjabi business community is located much closer to Heathrow. Switching to the airport will attract more business travelers and offer easier connections to everyone.

Could Air India connect Amritsar to Heathrow?

Earlier this year, Air India leased six slot pairs from Garuda Indonesia to expand operations at Heathrow. While these slots were planned to be used for flights to Mumbai, the success of Vande Bharat flights to Amritsar might push Air India to use some of the slots for the city.

Alternatively, Air India could simply increase its frequency on the Stansted route. A daily flight would help it capture more market share and offer passengers more flexibility on travel dates. Currently, the only other options to London are with Qatar or Emirates (through flydubai).

Vistara 787
Could Vistara look at direct London to Amritsar flights? Photo: Vistara

Another possible candidate could be Vistara. The airline currently offers a one-stop connection to London via Delhi. As it inducts more 787s, perhaps the airline could look to new non-stop flights to the UK.

Vande Bharat flights to continue

For now, India is looking to carry on repatriation flights into the coming months. Starting today, there will be one flight a week between the two airports. Testing out the Heathrow-Amritsar route will give Air India a chance to understand what the capacity demands are and if a switch to Heathrow is justified. Other Indian airlines might also be interested in the route considering how underserved the market is currently.

Amritsar to London remains an underserved route, one which Indian carriers should look to capitalize on. Photo: flypop

Other airlines have been looking at Amritsar keenly too. UK-startup airline flypop was also planning flights between Stansted and Amritsar last year. While it is unlikely the airline will launch flights anytime soon, it’s clear that the route is a lucrative one for airlines.