After years of benign neglect, Qantas is rediscovering India. In October, the airline said it would start thrice-weekly services between Sydney and Delhi in early December. Qantas followed that up on Monday, announcing it would also begin Melbourne – Delhi flights before Christmas.
Qantas international services make a return to Adelaide
Buoyed by the strong bookings for its Sydney – Delhi flights, Qantas is taking a punt on Melbourne. The airline has timed the announcement of the new flights with the news Australia will reopen to skilled migrants and international students from December 1.
From December 22, QF69 will depart Melbourne at 09:25 every Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, and Tuesday for the flight to Delhi. An Airbus A330-200 will operate the service. The flight to Delhi operates via Adelaide.
Alas, Qantas does not appear to be selling the domestic leg of this flight. An Airbus A330 between Melbourne and Adelaide would sure beat the squeezy Boeing 737-800s that otherwise fly the route.
But Qantas is selling the Adelaide – Delhi legs. With an 11:25 departure, QF69 marks the return of Qantas international services to Australia’s fifth-largest city after a very long absence. Flying time from Adelaide to New Delhi is just under 12 hours.
The return flight operates nonstop between Delhi and Melbourne. QF70 pushes back from Delhi at 19:55 every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. The flight arrives in Melbourne at lunchtime the following day after 12 hours in the air.
Assuming Air India returns to Sydney and Melbourne soon after suspending flights last year, the two airlines will fight it out on the air corridor between Australia and India.
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India is a big market for Qantas to tap
Before the travel downturn, Tourism Australia says India was Australia’s seventh-largest inbound market for visitor arrivals, the sixth-largest market for total visitor spend, and second for visitor nights. Australia’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Economics (BITRE) says that 182,374 passengers flew nonstop in either direction between the two countries in 2019 on 834 Air India flights.
However, those numbers don’t capture the hundreds of thousands more who fly via hubs like Singapore or Kuala Lumpur on airlines like Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, and AirAsia. Competition from the likes of Singapore Airlines has squashed Qantas’ Indian ambitions for so long.
But with a large Indian diaspora in Australia and a (normally) huge number of Indian students studying there, Qantas seems to think the time is right to head back to the subcontinent.
Is India the new China for Qantas?
It’s also worth noting Qantas’ Chinese aspirations have fallen flat. A decade ago, Qantas was diving into China like it is diving into India now. But even before the travel downturn and political machinations came to the fore, China was proving a hard nut for Qantas to crack.
You could look at these new Delhi services as round two of the China push – only in another heavily populated and fast-developing country. Ideally, this time around, Qantas would like to make the gamble work.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Qantas resumed its first regular international flights out of Melbourne in 20 months. While Qantas international flights out of Sydney have been operating for a few weeks now, Melbourne was a little late to the party.
On Monday, three times a week Airbus A330-300 flights to Singapore recommenced. Flights between Melbourne and London will restart on 27 November 2021, and Melbourne-Los Angeles flights will start taking off again on 19 December 2021.